Monday, October 31, 2011

A bit looser

After a number of small paintings (using little brushes) I felt it was time for a bigger looser piece.

Ever since that exciting morning in Labrador when almost one thousand caribou crossed the lake and delighted eight wildlife artists, I have wanted to paint a running herd. It was the second week of October and we had been waiting for a big group for over a week and wondering if we missed the migration. Would we only see small groups? Was there no chance for the thrill of massive numbers crossing our paths? Long hikes over rugged terrain had yielded a few nice reference photos. Still, our small group longed for that one chance to experience thundering hooves and a blur of caribou.

Three of us had left camp early for a long scouting hike. We were on a ridge and Steve Oliver glanced over at the lake. There in the early morning light huge V's of caribou were crossing and heading straight for us. We had just enough time to prepare before that first group left the water, climbed the ridge and passed by us. It didn't stop there. Wave after wave of caribou followed them.

I decided to make this an elongated painting in hopes to enhance the feel of a moving herd. The piece is 12" X 30". As usual, I start with my drawing on a gessoed untempered hardboard which I then "seal" with a raw sienna + burnt sienna wash. After about 15 minutes when that light wash is dry, I add more paint to the turpentine and I wash in a value study. This gives me a feeling of the lights and darks in the painting.

Here I have started with the early morning sky.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Final Touches

Now What?
13" X 18"
Original Oil

As for my decisions from the last posting, I debated on painting grasses on the right side for what seemed the longest time. Once my husband suggested a few more on the left, I knew that was the answer (certainly helps to have a second pair of eyes around.) I did switch to a male green-winged teal and the dog's head is darker.

I guess I didn't fill you in on the story behind this piece. This young retriever had successfully brought his quarry almost all the way to shore. The duck had a different idea and had maneuvered out of the pup's soft hold. Now What? seemed the perfect title.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fur and Texture

After I played with the duck, I started with the dog's eyes and built out the head from there. For me it is easiest to work with the darker fur first. (And I love throwing on the thicker texture of the sunlit fur at the end.) The splash of color with the collar was great fun.
There are couple of issues I see which I need to think about. The duck is important but I am thinking I should switch the duck from female to male.
The grasses on the left side indicate they are close to shore but I am wondering whether I should also have grasses on the right. This is when a computer can come in handy. I can take this photo of my painting and use the mirror function in my Paint Shop Pro to give me a new look at the painting for balance. Also, I can digitally paint in grasses on the right to see if I like the look before painting them over my water (which I like right now.)
The other issue I want to consider is the dog's head. It may need to go darker.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Brahms Requiem

This past weekend the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and the Spokane Symphony Chorale performed Brahms Requiem (in German.) I am an alto in the Spokane Symphony Chorale so it was a busy week. We had rehearsal Monday-Friday nights, Saturday morning and concerts Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
If you would like to listen to our performance of this beautiful work by Brahms along with the Bach Cantata No. 192 (Nun dunket alle Gott) and a unique orchestral piece which begins the concert, you can listen to the broadcast of the performance on our local public radio channel, KPBX.
The broadcast begins tonight Monday October 24th at 7pm Pacific Daylight Time, (10pm Eastern Daylight Time). First is the orchestral piece, then the Bach Cantata (in German), then the Requiem.
Follow the instructions from

Friday, October 21, 2011


One of my upcoming shows is the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland November 10th -13th. As I looked around at the pieces I was bringing, I realized I didn't have a huge abundance of water paintings and I did not have a single dog painting.
Hmm. How about a dog in water to fill the gap.
For my "water" paintings, I like to work with the water wet-on-wet. I'll start by mixing all the colors I need on my palette. Next I put down my lightest values and work my way to the darkest values. 
Once all my colors are blocked in, I take my blending brush (a very soft square flat) and begin softening the edges between the colors. Sometimes I'll leave an area with thicker paint for texture.

The next step is to work with the water to make it look wet. This might mean adding different "waves", more light or dark, or introducing a new color. If you look carefully, you can see a swath of cerelean blue I added to the left of the dog's head. I felt the water needed it.

I'll keep looking at the water as I continue the rest of the painting

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


First Base
8" X 15"
Original Oil

Part way through this painting, I was again wondering why I would paint not one but two leopards on this scale. Now that I am finished it is one of my favorite paintings.
You can see I lightened and softened the "hip" shadow on the female. With only slight variations in coat color, getting the right value was critical.  There were a number of times I went back to areas to either lighten or darken them. I saved the male's tongue and whiskers for last.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Shadows are essential in making this piece read well. With such a limited palette, they make all the difference.
At this stage, rather than work on one cat first, I decide to keep moving between the two. Much of that is because I am working on such a small surface it makes sense to keep the same color on the brush. The belly of the female is darkened, the chest of the male is filled in. The underside of the female's tail and her right back leg are darkened. The male's right leg, behind his left leg and his neck are completed.
I think the deep shadow in front of the female's right back leg might be too strong. I'll have to keep an eye on that as I continue.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Leopards continued

Once all the spots are in, I start with the orange coloring around the necks and inside the spots. Next I move to the darker shaded areas on the female and the fur on her left front and back legs giving it a cooler tone. Filling in the dark area between the male's forelegs starts to give his body some shape.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Good Reason

There is a good reason why few small paintings of leopards are painted. It is insane! If it isn't bad enough to paint one leopard on an 8" X 15" gessoed board, I am painting two. Yup, I have officially lost my mind.
But, I do have a reason why I am tackling this. Seeing these two leopards in the Masai Mara was really special. It is very unusual to see a mating pair of leopards and I got to spend over an hour watching them interact. Why paint them so small? Good question. I have painted them in a different setting on a very large scale. I thought this would be fun and challenging.
And I am really enjoying myself. Can I capture the moment in such a small format? Guess we will find out.
My first step once I have the grasses roughed in is to start on the spots. I like to do all the spots first because it gives me a better feeling of the cats.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From the north country

Snow goose family (still working on the title)
6.5" X 11"
Original Oil

On my trip to Manitoba, I was fortunate to be there during the snow goose migration south. Often families would stop to feed along the way. I wonder what the "kids" were thinking of Mom and Dad's  decision to fly so far. How many times did they ask, "Are we there yet?"