Painting from life

My life model,

My life model, happily staying in one place and not moving.

With the sun streaming in on the floor next to my easel, my dog (a.k.a. my studio assistant) is taking a nap. I also look at her as my life model. Except for her collar she is a nude model if a bit hairier than most. I think it is better to paint something from real life.  A photo is fine but most of the values and colors get washed out or pushed into a rather narrow spectrum.

I snapped a photo of my model just in case a cat or coyote walked by outside and she felt the need to spring awake and move from her position. She managed to stay asleep long enough (35 minutes) for me to get the values and colors in as well as her position. Then she moved and got up. I was able to keep painting using the rug and sofa side as is. They don’t move on their own so all I had to deal with was the changing light.

Painting from life lets me see the nuances that normally don’t come through in a photo. I had to wait to the next day to finish this painting as I did loose the light in the room I was in painting because we are very near the winter Solstice.

I think the painting turned out well.

My Studio Assistant, Still Life Oil, 9" x 12"

My Studio Assistant, Still Life Oil, 9″ x 12″


A Month on Retreat

Morning Walk

Morning Walk, Oil, 11″ x 14″

This month I am on retreat at my friends house in the mountains on the Front Range. I’m about an hour from Denver and don’t feel like going into the hub bub of civilization if I can avoid it. I am house/dog/horse/cat sitting for them while they are on a family vacation. As you can see from the above painting, I take the dogs for a walk on a very scenic road every morning.

I am painting, both in the studio and plein air. The following painting is the plein air study for the one that follows. I went to Morrison with my friend before she left and met up with her plein air painting pals on a warm Sunday morning.

Study for Bear Meadow

Study for Bear Meadow, Oil, 8″ x 10″     

Plein Air in Bear Meadow

Plein Air in Bear Meadow, Oil, 11″ x 14″

I also used this time to refine other plein air studies I did near my home in Paonia. This one is of the confluence of the North Fork and the Gunnison Rivers at a place named the Pleasure Park. Odd name for a riparian area in a desert environment but its a nice place to paint as well as a Gold Medal Stream for fishing.

Confluence Cliffs

Confluence Cliffs, Oil 9″ x 12″

I am still here for a little while longer, so I hope to be productive and creative. I always enjoy myself, especially while painting.

Windy Spring in Western Colorado

Nothing says “spring” more in Western Colorado than clear, crisp mornings and windy, dusty afternoons. The other week I went out painting with another artist at the reservoir near Eckert, CO. The early morning required a coat and hat but by 11 or so the weather was perfect! My canine assistant has figured out where to park herself out of the sun yet close enough to not miss anything! I got a good small painting in of the shore where lots of white salt buildup made a dramatic contrast to the dark water. When the wind started coming up, we bungee-ed our stuff down but it got so strong we decided to move our painting location to somewhere more sheltered.

A lovely morning en plein air

A lovely morning en plein air

We drove a few miles west and went down into some interesting farm land set between “adobe” hills. I recently learned they were composed of different kinds of Mancos Shale. The regular gray shale was obvious to me but I didn’t know the yellow shale is called Mancos Blonde and composed of pyrite. No wonder its so pretty!

Painting some sage and chamisa.

Painting some sage and chamisa.

Most people don’t seem to be that impressed with the area, but I am in love with the contrast of the landforms and the hardy plants and critters that live there. I look at the photos and see drab images with little contrast. But when I’m there, WOW, I see colors and amazing vistas. Glad I am an artist and can paint those images so I can share them with others!


Maintaining a clean environment in the studio

Its important to maintain a clean environment in the studio. This keeps anything that could make you sick, like dust from some paint chemical or whatnot, from floating around on the air and getting inhaled.

You shouldn’t eat or drink in the studio. But most artists don’t follow that rule. At least put your tea mug on a different table than your brush cleaning solvent. And really, don’t eat in the studio. You could ingest toxins or get grease or crumbs on your artwork.

And the BIG ONE. Pet fur!  Pets should not be in the studio.

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

So after taking a look at my “helpers” who are always underfoot in the studio, you can consider me a hypocrite considering studio cleanliness. Yep, dog fur is everywhere. In my paints, solvents, on the painting, in my tea mug, in the corners and under foot. As a result, I have a special tool I use exclusively when this becomes a problem. So its all good. More or less.

Helpful hair removal tool

Helpful hair removal tool

If you ever get one of my paintings, chances are there is at least one dog fur somewhere on it. I like to think it will bring you good luck.