April in Paris, painted in March

april-in-paris-ditych-paintingI painted this diptych (painting in two parts) of Paris to donate to the silent auction at the upcoming Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation fundraiser in Atlanta.

It is acrylic paint (I LOVE acrylics!) on canvas/hardboard cradled panel…and each panel is 16 inches h x 12 inches w…for a total size, when hung together, of 16 x 24.

Usually I crop the photos I take of my paintings but I wanted to show my very high-tech photo area — the A/C unit sticking out of one of the barn/studio’s windows!  This area isn’t pretty — and is always a bit drippy — but the light there on the non-sun side of the barn/studio is beautiful and even and true-to-color.

About the painting…I love Paris (heck, who doesn’t?) and I love the monumental scale of everything there.  I like to imagine, as I stroll around with Dan, what it must have been like to have been one of the King’s architects or landscape designers.  Someone designed and placed that amazing sculpture/planter…the one I’ve painted there in the right corner.  Did that start out as a series of drawings by some silk-frocked be-wigged fellow…who then gave the drawings to stone masons who carved the glorious thing?  Fast forward to now: who decided that wild purple petunias were to be the choice for the season?  How many gardeners are on staff there?   Where were the petunias grown?  And now, a couple years later after Dan shot the photo that I used as reference for this painting, what is blooming in that beautiful planter?  And when can I go back to see?!?


March 26, 2009 at 5:51 am Leave a comment

YoYo! An update…

YoYo is the adorable little Pekingese that someone dropped off here last November.  She was emaciated, malnourished, full of worms, deaf…and had one damaged eye, mammary tumors, an abdominal hernia and, not surprisingly, some trust issues!  Our vet fixed up her medical problems and we provided a lot of good food and a lot of love and now she is thriving and enjoying her life of luxury as the only house dog here at the farm.  She has gained almost five pounds and her fur has grown in as thick as bunny’s.  As a thank you to our vet, Dr. Howard Small (no relation) I painted this portrait for him.


March 25, 2009 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

A chicken painting, a studio sign…and some epiphytes

(Scroll down to see all the photos…there are 5 in this post)

Howdy!  Long time no blog.  It’s been…um, hectic and interesting…”interesting” as in that old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

I painted two things yesterday — a chicken and the “that a way” part of my studio sign.  The main “studio” and the stick I painted years ago when Pip and I taught a glass fusing class in my then-studio which was a three-car garage that I wanted to make look, well, NOT like a three car garage. 

chicken-painting-1The glare is from the freshly applied varnish.  This painting is 20 inches wide by 16 inches high…and I hope Gillian’s parents like it enough when they come to visit  in two weeks that they will take this silly chicken back to Bethesda with them…for her bedroom.










gh-studio-signThat’s my potting shed…the barn/studio is, as the sign suggests, off to the right.










I’ve been living out here in the country long enough now that when I was trying to figure out what to paint on that wooden arrow, the first thing I thought of was “over yonder” !!!


And here are the bromeliads that I’m trying to establish under the oaks adjacent to the barn/studio…I took them from our old house where they had climbed up another oak’s trunk about four feet…lovely colors, huh?bromeliads

February 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Gillian’s Farm…FINISHED!

gillians-farm-final-012-large-hi-res1This is a photograph I took of the finished painting…but it looks much better in person, not surprisingly.

Since the last post to this blog I added lots of flowers — bluebonnets and black-eyed Susans and some wholly imagined dew-drop type blossoms on the long arching stems that I’ll name GumDrops because they look like candies — and I finished the animals.

The  important non-pictorial steps of the process, such as adding hanging wire and varnishing the painted surface for durability, are shown and described below.

You can click on the image of the painting and enlarge it, I believe.  It may not appear sharp as I did NOT take my own good advice to always use a tripod.






Because this painting is fairly large (20×24) and heavy and will be hanging near a baby’s crib it is super-important that the hanging wire is strong and secure.  A trick I learned when we owned the gallery and frame shop in Texas is to use TWO wires on the back…that way if one breaks (highly unlikely) the other will hold.  To make the picture hang level two picture hangers are used.

Here are the tools and parts I used.  The awl makes small starter holes into which the screw eyes are fastened.  It is important to NOT pre-drill the holes into which the screw eyes go because it is easy to make the holes too big and this will result in the screw eyes being loose and possibly pulling out. 

The best position for the wire is approximately one-third down from the top…in this case that’s about 6 to 7 inches from the top of the canvas along the 20 inch sides.  

The wire I use is super-strong braided picture cable and it is threaded through the screw eyes twice then wrapped on itself seven times.  Why seven?  “Cause it is a lucky number, that’s why!


gillians-farm-final-0101This is what one side looks like…ready for hanging.  See how secure? 








gillians-farm-final-014Acrylic paints are terrific, but even the same brand of paints will vary in shininess from color to color.  This is due to the different pigments used to make the colors…and this characterisitc occurs in oil paints too.  So, it is important to varnish the panting once it is dry to bring the entire painted surface to the same degree of shininess or matteness.  A matte surface tends to make the colors look lighter while a gloss makes the colors look deeper and richer…naturally, I think deeper and richer colors are more desirable so that’s what I went with.  This varnish also protects against UV light damage, but that really isn’t an issue with acrylic paints.  This varnish can also be used on watercolors, where lightfastness IS an issue.

I elevated the canvas on four small plastic containers to prevent the varnish from seeping around the edges and gluing the canvas to the table.  This photo shows the “gallery wrap” canvas, which allows the painting to be hung without a frame.  In this case, because the picture is hanging near the crib we don’t want a frame that would add weight to the picture ; additonally a frame might contain potentially harmful materials, such as metal leaf or lead-based paints.

Another advantage of varnishing the painting is to protect the surface from things that might splatter on it, such as spit-up or milk 😉


Here’s a detail of the finished painting…this is the lower right corner showing the hen and two chicks…and my signature.

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this painting.  The was a  fun project for me…and I learned how versatile acrylic paints are.  I welcome your comments or questions.

December 20, 2008 at 8:40 am Leave a comment

Gillian’s farm…part three

Here are some more photos of the process of making a  farm scene painting for the bedroom of Baby Gillian.  My biggest challenge has been to try to keep this light and whimsical and not to spin off into too-realistic.gillian-farm-prt-three-1

So…the sign is blocked in and underpainted…the pig is there — and I like her placement — but her details need lots of refinement.  The hen and chicks needs more feathers and important little details like eyes and beaks.  The cows are fine — I won’t mess with them anymore — and I notice that they seem to be a cross between Holsteins and belted Galloways…so I’ll name them Belted Bethesdasteins 😉


Here’s a close-up…gillian-farm-part-three-4 you can see I’ve added lots more feathers to the hen and given the horse a mane and tail.  The chicks are fully feathered and beaked and have little eyes.







gillians-farm-4I’ve painted the sign background with matallic gold acrylic…it’s very shiny and I may decide to tone it down later by putting a dulling wash over it.  I’ve blocked out the letters with an opaque white paint and later I’ll add color.  I’m not keen about that little cartouche thing on the sign, so I’ll change that.

The pig has her various wrinkles and folds…and her hooves.  Now all she needs are some soft hairs added to her face and arms.


This is a good place to talk about the versatility of acrylic paints.  I tend to use them only for fun projects, but they can be used for serious projects, too, and I want to do that more in the future.  In this painting I have used them in much the same way I would watercolor…and acrylics can do that.  Watercolors are, as the name suggests, colors (pigments) carried in water…the water evaporates and the color remains.  Problem with real watercolors is that they are fragile on the paper…get the paper wet after the painting is done and -poof!- the picture is ruined.  Acrylics can be diluted greatly and used transparently,  just like watercolors, BUT they forn a tough plastic-y layer when dry and are much more permanent and completely light-fast, unlike watercolors.  Acrylics can also be used like oil paints and put on the canvas (or board or paper) very thickly (and in some parts of this painting I’ve done that).  Unlike oil paints, acrylics are non-toxic (unless you spread them on toast and eat them!) and don’t have fumes as they dry.  Clean-up is super-easy — just soap and water, unlike the turpentine needed to clean the brushes used with oils.  If you want to learn to paint, consider using acrylics, rather than oils.

Tomorrow I’ll post the last stages of Gillian’s Farm…and an image of the finished product.  I’m very pleased with the finished painting…stay tuned to see it!

December 18, 2008 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Gillian’s Farm…part two

gill-farm-part-two-1The Gillian Farm painting continues…

I’ve made the roof and door yellow to blend with the wall color Lauren added in the nursery.






gill-farm-part-two-2I tried adding a weathervane to the barn roof, but the scale is wrong, so I think I’ll paint it out…







gill-farm-part-two-3This is how I figure out where the different animals will go in the scene…first, I draw them on tracing paper…






gill-farm-part-two-4Then I slide the drawing around until, in this case, the horse looks naural with the right scale…then I put a piece of graphite transfer paper (like the old carbon paper but not as waxy) under my drawing and draw over it to transfer the lines to the canvas…





gill-farm-part-two-6Here are the products I used to place the animals in the scene…available at any art store or online.







gill-farm-part-two-7Here are the animals placed in their farm surroundings…and underpainted.







gill-farm-part-two-8Here’s a close-up of the flock of sheep I painted on the far hillside…it appears that farmgirl Gillian is having a cozy fire in her little pink farmhouse 😉

(I’ll post Gillian’s Farm Part Three photos in a day or two…stay tuned!)

December 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

Gillian’s Farm, part one

Gillian is our beautiful new great-niece and her parents, Lauren and Michael, have decorated her nursery with a farm theme.  As a former (and current and forever) farmgirl, I’m thrilled with this and readily agreed to do a painting inspired by the fabric Lauren chose to make the crib bedding.  You can see the fabric in the first photo.

For those of you who like to see how paintings happen, I’ll post the step-by-step photos, with some explanation of the process.


I painted in a sky with the same blue/green in the fabric.  While the paint was still wet I wiped out some cloud shapes with a damp paper towel.  Acrylic dries quickly so this step must be done FAST.

While I was painting, Dan was running plumbing to the barn/studio and now we have running water in the beautiful sink he installed.  To have a sink and running water to wash hands and brushes is WONDERFUL!



I enhanced the wiped-out clouds with some warm white paint at the tops and a pale pink at the bottoms…to suggest an early pink dawn breaking.  At the bottom part of the sky, where it meets the horizon I added some pink to suggest the sun.  Using a mixture of dark green and blue I roughly painted in a treeline at the horizon.

To make something appear to be in the distance you should do the following:
1) Make the object(s) bluish;
2) Make the object(s) hazy and indistinct;
3) Add “hills” in front.
gillian-farm-41Here I’ve added some hills.  Eventually I’ll add grassy texture to these.  Notice how as hills “come closer” to the viewer they become lighter and more yellow-green.
The paint is still wet…that’s what that shine is.  There is a new type of acrylic paint by “Golden” that is called “Open Acrylic”, meaning it stays wett — or “open” — longer and it behaves more like traditional oils, which take forever to dry.  I haven’t tried it yet.



This looks rough…and it is.  I wanted to establish a darker area and pick up the brown tone that is in the inspiration fabric.  This dirt road area will be enhanced and will provide a nice background for the farm animals that I’ll paint in part two.

This is another technique for making objects seem to recede in a painting: painting in a road or fenceline that gets smaller.

What I’ve done in this step is to add the underpainting for the flowers and shrubs that will ultimately be in the foreground. 

I’ll have a baby pig on the left side of the foreground area and a mother hen and a chick or two on the right side.  I’ll paint sheep on the far hill and have a cow and calve grazing in the middle distance and there wll be a horse somewhere…that’s the plan, anyway!
I made this custom grass brush by taking an inexpensive synthetic bristle brush and hacking at its bristles with a utility knife.
A custom grass brush

A custom grass brush

This type of brush is also wonderful for painting fur texture in animal paintings. 
Art and craft stores sell packages of these brushes for next-to-nothing.  A major brush manufaturer sells “Wispy” brushes that are made to do the same job, but I find that the bristles are too regularly spaced and the result doesn’t look like real grass…or fur.
Close-up of medium distance hill with some grass texture

Close-up of medium distance hill with some grass texture

You can see the beginnings of the grass texture in the hill.  I’ve used several colors of paint and have a lot more to do on this area.

I’ve done a quick paint-sketch of the barn and silo.  See how I’m using that crest of the hill to make the barn look far away?   After the barn is complete I’ll paint in some vegetation around it to make it look more fully part of the landscape.
The white things in the foreground are a post and a fence board.  The inspiration fabric has white pickets, so I’ll make my fence white-ish, with a wood texture.  The baby pig I’m planning will be peeking through the fence.
More to come in part two

More to come in part two

At this stage I have the barn and silo blocked in with color…and the house, too.  The inspiration fabric has a hot pink barn, so I picked up that color for this barn to.  Also, as Gillian is the farmgirl who “lives” in this farmhouse in the painting, I made it a lovely girly shade of pale pink.  The roofs will be grey-blue, like slate.
In part two I’ll add the details to these structures and “landscape” them with shrubs and flowers.
I’ve given the fence posts and boards some texture, but they need to be refined and the lower one on the left needs to be straightened.
Stay tuned for part two to see the all animals and the shrubs and flowers…and the corrections and refinements that I’ve mentioned.
As always, comments are encouraged and welcomed!

November 29, 2008 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

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