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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memories of Vancouver Island

I can still see the glow of the setting sun on the water at Qualicum Beach, where I sat with my friends on the last night of my visit. We had a busy two-and-half days catching up on our lives and reliving our trip to New Mexico ten years ago. Among other things, we went on Saturday to a couple of outdoor markets, where I bought a funky tie-dyed apron for my workshops and a silly arm puppet for my grandchildren. I actually saw someone I remembered from one of my workshops twelve years ago, selling her art in the outdoor market.
We had someone take our picture together at the ferry dock at Nanaimo. I flew from Nanaimo airport to Vancouver, then to Denver and Dayton. It was longer than the trip out, with a diversion to avoid the storms that hit the Midwest yesterday. Today we went fossil hunting at a state park near my daughter's house. I'm feeling like a fossil myself after the long travel day. The trip to Vancouver Island to be with my friends was worth every minute of it.
A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me
when my memory fails.
-- Author unknown

Friday, May 23, 2008

Forever Friends

The workshop in Sidney ended yesterday and my two Canadian friends picked me up at the fairgrounds just as class was ending. I couldn't believe ten years had passed since I last saw them. They haven't changed a bit. We've had such fun already, reminiscing about our life-enhancing trip to New Mexico in 1998. Over a ten-day period we went from the airport in Albuquerque, where we visited Olde Towne, to Santa Fe, Taos, and Abiquiu and many points in between. We visited galleries everywhere we could and even made a stop at the shrine at Chimayo. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for all of us, and this is our first reunion. We had all begun to think it wouldn't happen, then I was invited to teach the workshop in Sidney.
This morning we walked down to Qualicum Beach. This is an amazing place. You not only have the shore, you have mountains, islands and eagles soaring overhead. Then, to make things even more interesting, this evening the three of us went Chakra Dancing, which was a first for me. I was surprised to discover there is still some flexibility left in these old bones. It was a delightful day from start to finish.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Collage and Monotype

Yesterday the creativity workshop made collages and today, monotypes. I introduced basic techniques for both and turned them loose. This isn't about creating artworks, but more about trying new strategies for stimulating creativity and breaking blocks. These are good artists and willing workers. Fortunately the facility is spacious, because they are producing a great deal of work and it's spread on the tables and floor throughout the room, so you can hardly walk around. I took photos yesterday before critique, but there was so much work I couldn't possibly get it edited to post on the blog. I love it when a class is this involved. One of the items I showed them that has been an eye opener is a pH testing pen by Lineco. They're using it to test their papers for acid content. It's a handy tool.

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Monday, May 19, 2008


Ruth took me to see Emily Carr's home last evening. Unfortunately, I won't get to see her art, most of which is in Vancouver, but having read her autobiographical writings, I was appropriately awed by seeing the home where she was raised. I only wish someone hadn't parked a big red car in front of the doorway, which spoiled the picture. We also drove down back roads to see commercial tulip fields, which are nearly depleted and even so, very colorful.
A few more twists and turns and we were at the site of the oldest Anglican church in B.C., a tiny building set among ancient stone crosses in a rural setting.
Now I understand why I've heard such wonderful things about Victoria and Vancouver Island. Ruth took me around the Victoria and Sidney areas last evening and I was captivated. The gardens everywhere are magnificent, currently featuring enormous rhododendrons, dogwood, and flowers and shrubs of every color and description. There's no way to adequately describe the lush vegetation here. It's hard to believe that I'm in the Northwest--it reminds me of Hilton Head, South Carolina, in the spring, without the humidity and palmetto bugs. Ruth is a good tour guide, having moved here twenty years ago from Ontario. In fact, most of the delightful students have come from somewhere else, including Newfoundland--now that's a looooong way.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

A long way from home

Yesterday morning I got up at 6 a.m. and prepared to begin my journey from Ohio west to Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Nearly all the connections went smoothly, but it was a long day. I arrived here a little before 6 p.m., which was 9 p.m. EDT, nearly 12 hours of travel time. I have all of today to regenerate before the creativity workshop starts tomorrow. I'm staying at the Waterfront Innand have already had a morning walk around the little town of Sidney. The light is clear and bright today and the temperature mild. I sit on a little balcony and overlook the fish market on the pier. I'll be moving to another room this afternoon for the rest of the week. I hope I'll have as beautiful a view in my new digs. This truly is a lovely little town, sparkling clean, nice shops and restaurants. The workshop facilitator, Ruth Steinfatt, is very pleasant and well organized, so I'm looking forward to a delightful workshop experience here.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Online Art Magazine

Canadian Brushstroke Magazine serves the art industry, artists and collectors with online articles and advertising. They sponsor art competitions with cash prizes (current prize winners are in the issue I've linked to) and feature articles on Canadian artists, as well as introducing new products. I signed up for a free subscription to the magazine, which looks to me like a worthwhile publication.

The current issue includes an article on Jean Pederson, one of my Calgary artist friends, who has recently published a book, Expressive Portraits: Creative Methods for Painting People. Jean's wonderful portraits have won many awards and have been selected for major exhibitions in the U.S. and Canada.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Color Wheel

Charley Parker at Lines & Colors blog has a great article on The History of the Color Wheel with lots of interesting links. Check it out. The color wheel is one of the artist's best tools for learning and working with color. Not everyone agrees, but I haven't found anything that works better for my purposes.


Monday, May 12, 2008

M. Graham paints

I swore I'd never do another paint comparison, but when M. Graham of Oregon came out with more than 20 new colors, I couldn't resist. The image shows my original chart on the left and the new colors on the right. While it isn't easy to distinguish the colors in the image, you can see how brilliant they are. I tested for transparency, tinting strength, reaction to salt*, and staining characteristic. I find most of the Graham pigments saturated and of a pleasing consistency. I especially like the reds in the original line, and now they have added Scarlet Pyrrol (PO 73), luscious Pyrrol Red (PR 254), Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR 264), Maroon Perylene (PR 179)and bright Azo Orange (PO 62). Hansa Yellow (PY3) and Hansa Yellow Deep (PY97) fill the bill for cool and warm semi-transparent yellows. I also like Anthraquinone Blue (PB60), which resembles Indanthrone Blues from other manufacturers. Cobalt Teal (PB28), a light turquoise, appeals to me, while Turquoise (PB15:3+PG7) could be a little greener to suit my taste. A new range of synthetic earth pigments from yellows to reds has a lot of possibilities for low-intensity palettes. The Nickel Quinacridone Gold (PO48+PY150) lacks the glow of the Quin Gold pigment (no longer available), but is a lovely color on its own. Indian Yellow (PY110) is too orange in my opinion. Colors with less powerful tinting strength, like Ultramarine Pink (PR258), Cobalt Green (PG50), Cobalt Violet (PV14) and Ultramarine Violet Deep (PV15) work well on a delicate palette, but might be easily overpowered by many of the colors in the line. The Cerulean Blue Deep (PB36) looks more like a weak phthalo blue and doesn't appear to granulate as I would expect a cerulean blue to do.

On the whole, I like M. Graham colors very much. One of the ingredients is honey, a traditional method of watercolor manufacturing. The consistency of the paint is very nice--creamy and easily soluble in water. Some colors may seem a little stickier than others, but this may be the nature of the pigment. The new colors give a much needed boost to the available range in watercolors. M. Graham watercolors are more reasonably priced than many imported brands and give good value for the price. I have favorite colors among many different brands. For more information on this paint, see handprint.com.

*I don't recommend using salt for fine-art watercolors, but the effect can be used for illustration, note cards and crafts, in which case it's important to know which pigments will react to salt in a damp wash.

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Generating ideas for artwork

Recently I had an email from a fan of The New Creative Artist, Mark Spall of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He has a nifty idea for working up ideas for new watercolors. Mark says, "I filled my cork board with little 5 inch square pieces of paper. I have 24 in total, and what I wanna do is make a sketch one at a time on each of them from a vision in my mind of what I would like to watercolor. Then when my board is full of sketches I can choose which ones to design color schemes for on watercolor paper, and then after that stage have one break-though after the other. Hope it works." Sounds like a great idea to me. Mark describes his creative process in three phases. "The first one is to do many thumbnail sketches on 5 inch square pieces of paper. I chose to do up to 24 for my project. All you're focusing on at this stage is the proportion, light, and shadow. I have put my sketches up side by side on my cork board but you can store them in whichever way works best for you. Then in the second phase I decide which thumbnails I would like to design a color scheme for. I select one of my sketches and decide which colors to use and how to use them. I begin painting from my reference sketch. This stage may take more then one try, but once I am satisfied with the proportions I worked out in the first stage and my colors are successful, I'm ready to choose the size I want the final painting to be and proceed to create my masterpiece from my second phase. Once I've completed my painting I'm ready to choose another idea from the cork board to work on." Sounds like a good process to me. Thanks for sharing, Mark.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Looking ahead to Canada

Next Saturday I'll be flying to Sidney, British Columbia, to teach a Creativity Workshop. I've taught in Vancouver, Mission and Kelowna out there, but I haven't been to Vancouver Island before. I'm looking forward to it for several reasons, the first of which is meeting new people in the workshop and playing with creative ideas for four days. Every group is different, so it's always fun to see what comes up. I'm also hoping to see some of Emily Carr's work, but it may be hard to do because of the hours I teach. Most museums close before I finish teaching. In any case, the thing I'm really looking forward to is a reunion with two Canadian friends, who met me and my friend in Albuquerque ten years ago for a 10-day tour of Santa Fe, Taos and Abiquiu, Georgia O'Keefe's home place. It was a blend of sightseeing, art-talking and spiritual bonding unlike anything I've experienced before or since. Donna lives on the island and Lynn is coming over from the mainland on Thursday, the last day of my workshop. We're going to Donna's until Sunday. I feel like I'm going on a retreat. After this hectic spring, I'm ready for renewal.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008


I think I've written three weeks of blogs today. The brightest lights in the entire picture are Jenna and Daniel. In this picture of Jenna she's wearing her "dress-up dress" that I bought for $1.50 at Goodwill when she was about three. It's a size 14-teen chiffon party dress and we had to pin it up to keep it from dragging on the floor and tripping her. Now it's above her ankles but it still fits over her clothes. As you can see, she doesn't quite fit into the purple pumps yet. She's wearing one of my hats, as she cuts and pastes at her little art center at Grammy's house.

Daniel prefers wrestling with Pooh to posing for his birthday photo. He's eight-months old in this one. It was all I could do to keep him from leaping off the couch while I set up the camera. I'm discovering with Daniel that there's a little athleticism left in this old girl. I have to sprint across the room to keep up with him, crawl around the furniture, lift him like a twenty-pound free-weight. He's such a happy baby and loves to make me laugh with his juicy raspberries.

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Mixing Greens Redux

The subject of mixing green comes up several times a year in my classes and workshops. Here's the chart I demonstrated last week in my Hithergreen class on mixing a great variety of greens with the blues and yellows you already have in your paint box. It's worthwhile to take a couple of hours to make this chart so you have a reference for the different greens you can mix, at least until you become really familiar with them by using them often. I use white artist's tape to section the paper into 2-inch squares or slightly larger rectangles. Across the top I put the yellows, one per section: Winsor Lemon, Aureolin, New Gamboge and Raw Sienna are on this chart. Down the left side I place the blues: Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue Green Shade, and Cerulean Blue. I dampen a square and put a swatch of the yellow in that column in one corner and the blue in the row in the other corner. Then I mingle the two colors on my palette and place the mixture at the bottom of the section, teasing the colors up into the pure colors so I get variations of the mixture throughout. The chart includes spring, summer, late autumn, bright, misty, foggy and sea greens with just one blue and one yellow in each mixture. Before you begin a painting, see if you can find the greens you need on the chart and include those colors in your palette. See also my blog on Mixing With Green.

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Workshops, exhibits and books, oh my!

Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." --John Lennon

I'm sure I've used this quote before, but it's very appropriate right now.

Teaching three workshops in seven weeks ought to be enough to keep a person occupied, but in-between I was also baby-sitting three days a week for our grandson, teaching a weekly class, setting up the exhibition for the Hithergreen class and having my second cataract surgery. I was not much in the mood for blogging most days.

I'll start with the exhibition, Beginners & Beyond, the second for the class at Hithergreen Center. The opening was April 21. The class provided an elegant spread of munchies, but the real treat was seeing their art displayed. There are 66 paintings by 27 artists in the show, all watercolors, but varied in subject matter and style. One painting sold right away and we've been told that another venue would like to display some of the paintings after they come down on May 30. I took pictures of the exhibition, but can't display them here, as some of the artists are still practicing by painting from copyrighted art and photographs. They understand that they can't sell their work and are required to attribute the original artist. I didn't have time this year to photograph individual original pieces and make a Web page. I hope I can do it next month.

As with my first surgery in February, the implant was good, but the first three or four days were touch-and-go. This time, instead of blurred, double vision, I had a great deal of pain and blurring. But by the fourth day the eye began to clear up and I'm very happy with the results. I can even work on my computer without glasses. I can also read and drive without glasses, but will be getting a prescription to prevent fatigue and improve my distance vision. Oddly, I found an old pair of trifocals that correct my vision almost perfectly. I have a photo of me wearing these glasses in 1990 at a book-signing--imagine huge, round plastic frames. I'm glad I had the surgery. If you're considering this surgery, Mayo Clinic has more information.

Yesterday we drove to Cincinnati to catch the "American Watercolors: From Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper" exhibition at the Taft Museum of Art. It was fantastic. In addition to the curated show, which originated at the Brooklyn Museum, there were images from the Taft's collection of 18th and 19th century watercolors, which made an interesting contrast. We also toured the permanent collection of the Taft, a world-class museum of 17th to 19th century painting and decorative arts in a small package. Rembrandt, Hals, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Whistler, Italian and Dutch masters--the list goes on and on, including a collection of Turner watercolors that is exquisite. The museum is easy to find and just a hop and a skip from the Cincinnati Art Museum. And five minutes away from Montgomery Inn at the Boat House, where we had fantastic ribs and strawberry shortcake for lunch. And that was my Mother's Day treat.

Confident Color bookMy new book is coming in August from North Light Books. Confident Color is 160 pages with 85 Try-it Activities in a spiral-bound hardcover format that stays flat for studio work. I've selected the work of 52 contemporary artists in a variety of media: acrylics, colored pencils, oils, pastels, watercolors, collage, mixed media and fibers to illustrate important color principles of harmony, contrast and unity through color schemes. Seven artists contributed detailed step-by-step demos of their color processes, including using a computer or a sketchbook for preliminary studies and mingling colors to select the best palette for a painting. Watch for my pre-publication offer of a signed copy and free shipping, coming soon on my Web site. Amazon.com is also taking pre-publication orders (unsigned, eligible for free shipping). Confident Color is almost ready to go to the printer. I'm more than a little excited about it, now that I've seen a few color-layout pages and the beautiful cover, a detail from Cheryl McClure's painting in the book. Cheryl was also the cover artist for The New Creative Artist.

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