Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Poem

The Swan by Mary Oliver
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saying Goodbye to 2018

bird painting
 Summer Sweet  11x14  oil/panel

I spent some time over the past month recovering from quite a busy year, 2018 was exciting and downright exhausting at times too.  I have often shared on this blog my love of the winter months.  I appreciate the time after the holidays to rest and contemplate new beginnings in Spring.  Being in sync with nature's cycles helps me gather energy for the coming year, and 2019 promises to be another busy one!  While I made plans for upcoming events this Spring and Summer (which I will continue to share on my blog), I also revisited some favorite paintings from my work last year.  I thought I'd share them with you.

bird art
   Water Pitcher and Magpie  16"x20"

bluebird art
Still Life with Bluebird 18"x14"
bird art
The Gift 14"x11"

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making Salt Refined Organic Linseed Oil

A fresh batch of raw linseed oil made from organic flax seed oil, resting in the light

I recently completed another batch of SRO oil, or salt refined organic linseed oil, for painting.  It's such an interesting process and the results are truly worth the effort.  I like to make my own linseed oil because I am interested in the materials of the past, used by the old masters before modern oil painting materials were available.     

The image above shows the first stage of cleansing the organic flax oil to remove impurities.  The flax oil is mixed with water, sand and salt, and given a good shake.  The cleansed oil rises to the top and is siphoned off and the entire process is repeated again.

Here is the cloudy oil after the first cleansing.  I discard the dirty water, clean the jar, add fresh water, clean sand and salt.  I add the oil back in and shake, shake, shake.


The impurities and mucilage (stuff you don't want in your paintings!) have a molecular attraction to the other ingredients and separate from the oil, sinking to the bottom of the jar.  

 mucilage, yuck


This oil is fully cleansed and will clear as it sits in a sunny window in the light. 

I currently depend on my SRO oil for making oil paint.  I use half of the raw SRO oil for mulling pigments.  I tube the hand made paint in 50 ml tubes that last a long time.  I take the other half of SRO oil and pour it in a shallow glass dish and place it in the sun to thicken.  After a month I have a beautiful, clear and thick oil that is perfect for mediums.

The completed jar of raw oil, ready to make paint!

At the moment I make about half of the colors on my palette from my own oil and pigment.  I have adjusted the ingredients for each pigment to suit my particular needs.  I am slowly making my way through each color and experimenting with the pigments to find the best balance of oils, pigment and fillers like calcite or fumed silica, to create a beautiful tube of oil paint perfectly suited for my indirect layering process. 

~my favorite white~

~my dependable 'warm light mix' that sits right next to white on my palette~

It will take a long time to get through all my colors to have a full palette of handmade oil paint, but in the meantime I'm really enjoying the process!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to Make a Shadow Box for Still Life

I want to share how I make a portable shadow box for still life.  Lighting is unpredictable and it's so important to have proper lighting when studying still life painting.  A shadow box can solve a lot of problems and create a nice environment for your set up to live in.  When an artist is preparing to paint a beautiful still life and has spent many hours, sometimes days, picking the right subjects it can be very disheartening to battle bad lighting.  Objects come to life when properly lit from one source, whether a north light window or a clip on light.  The play of light and shadow add so much interest in a painting, so I recommend artists studying still life create a shadow box.  It helps eliminate dual light sources or light bouncing from other spaces in the room.

Things to look for in a properly lit still life:
         1. highlight (may or may not be present, that's ok)
         2. light
         3. form shadow
         4. cast shadow  

What you need to make a shadow box:

1. office box or other cardboard box, whatever size will suit your   still life set up best.  The office box above is best for small subjects.

2. one sheet of Canson Mi Teintes drawing paper in neutral color of your choice.  One sheet will work nicely with the small size box above.  I like neutral warm grays or even black.  Buy more than one color and change the color scheme for different still life.

3. Shown above is a rechargeable book light. 

4. drapery, cloth is not required, you can add whatever surface you desire for your set up to rest on.

5. double sided tape

6. box cutter

7. ruler

8. steel carpenter square
First line up your steel square along the long edge on the bottom of the box.  Use the box cutter to cut a long slit all the way across the bottom as close to the edge as possible.

Next, set your box on top of the Canson paper and trace the outer edge with a pencil.

Measure about 1/2 inch inside the outline of your box and use the steel square as a guide as you cut out the rectangle of paper.

 The paper will fit perfectly inside your box.  Use the rectangle to measure the height of the box on the leftover Canson paper and cut side panels.  Tape all into place.

 Take your material for drapery and slide it through the slit you made at the back of the box.  Arrange accordingly.

Clip on your rechargeable book light and set on a shelf, voila, you are ready to set up a still life.

Here is the box in my studio.  I have found the shadow box to be a life saver when teaching and recommend all my students make one.  Not only will students have predictable lighting in class, they can use the box at home with the same lighting and continue painting.  With a portable box you can set up anywhere, like maybe the dining room table.  One note, if you move your box make sure it's at the same height you were originally working from.  Below I've used the lid to set the box on.

Here are some more examples of proper lighting in a traditional still life, I've used a piece of reclaimed wood to create a shelf:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mulling Paint, Grind Your Own Oil Paint

Here is a demo on how I make my own oil paint.  In the pic above you can see everything laid out except my dust mask.  Particles can become airborne and a dust mask is important.

To make oil paint you need:
glass plate
glass muller
linseed oil-cold pressed
(I use my own hand made linseed oil)
a couple palette knives
paint tube


First I lay out an amount of dry pigment that I think will fit my empty paint tube.  I lay the tube next to my pile to measure.

Next I make a pool of oil in the middle of the pigment.  The white in the pigment is a touch of calcite that I've mixed in.  I like adding calcite to my oil paint, it adds a touch of transparency and extends the paint.  That is a definite bonus for creating your own oils, you can customize them to your liking.  I also add a touch of sun oil to raw umber, in combination with the calcite I get a very specific texture that is great for under-paintings.

I use a palette knife to mix the oil and pigment into a dry mixture and place it in the upper left corner of my glass plate.  I will now mull small amounts at a time to the proper consistency.  

I continue until I am through the entire mixture, placing finished paint to the top right on my glass plate.  I sometimes go through the mixture twice, in case I need to add more oil if it's very dry, or more pigment if it's too wet.  Once you start mulling the paint it changes texture and different pigments react differently after coming in contact with oil.  Some will thin out considerably.

A 50 ml tube will take about an hour to mix correctly, it's time consuming but not difficult. 

A finished mixture of raw umber, ready to tube!

Below you can see the dramatically different textures of different pigments, each unique in particle size and handling ability.  Not all paints I make end up on my palette, but when I discover something that works for me it becomes a staple that I rely on in my painting process.  I have learned how amazingly unique each pigment is, and how you can manipulate the handling properties by using different oils and extenders.  Experimenting takes time but is completely worth the effort.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Wit and Whimsy" Show

My work is up at Sage Creek Gallery for a show that lasts until June 25th.  I have many new paintings in the gallery and have been stocking away work for months.  I am super pleased with the final pieces and seeing everything come together is very rewarding.

Preparing for shows takes a lot of time, energy and planning.  I like to make lists of ideas, and thumbnails of possible series and groupings, all throughout the creative process. 

Abundance  11"x14"  oil/panel

I was especially pleased with the paintings for this show.  I felt the surfaces and colors have developed more in the past year than in previous years.  I am seeing the results of working with my handmade paints and mediums and relying on the unique quality of the individual oil colors to contribute to the final look of the painting.