Sunday, December 20, 2009


Original Oil
30" X 45"

As I was nearing the completion of this painting, I was having trouble coming up with the title. Then it came to me, "Leopard!" The first thought that would come to you when you saw him, and being this close, probably your last thought.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Almost There

The Irish boys (from Celtic Thunder) got me through all the spots. Now if their voices can hold on through the grasses.......

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A spot here, a spot there......

I find leopard, cheetah, zebra, and giraffe paintings take me the longest. Spots and stripes. As you can see, this piece is no exception.

Music helps me stay focused and keep painting spots. I just bought a CD of Celtic Thunder (this is my 2nd one and called Act II.) Simply wonderful. Usually, I play 3 CDs and let them continuously run. I like this one so much I will play it 4 times in a row before moving on to other music. And, I sing along. (don't think the Irish boys mind.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

And still more leopard

Yes, this piece is going to take a while.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More Leopard

Once I put in some deep background, the next and most important step is the leopard's eyes. To stick with that "in your face" leopard, the eyes had to be looking right at you.

An interesting thing about eyes and painting. If you paint eyes looking directly out at the viewer, they will seem to follow you no matter which angle you view the painting. That is what I wanted for the leopard. He wouldn't be taking his eyes off you. And, you should be worried.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leopard Painting Continued

Here I have finished with the turpentine wash on all the spots. (Whew, a lot of spots!) While it may take a while to do this step, I find it worthwhile in the end. The burnt sienna - raw sienna wash adds a warm glow and I let it peak through subsequent layers. It will be subtle, but I find it acts as a unifying color throughout the piece.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bigger Than Life

After painting a number of small pieces, it is time to start a big piece. Rarely do wildlife artists paint animals larger than life. (kind of hard to do with an elephant or blue whale.) It is done so seldom that I remember one conversation I had with artist Mort Solberg at the Birds in Art show, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. He commented that he liked my painting Bobwhite Quintet and that it was "gutsy" of me to paint the Northern Bobwhite larger than life size.

I knew I wanted to paint a large leopard piece. As I worked on the composition, the leopard kept getting larger and more cropped. Something about him just called to be "in your face."

At this stage, I am just starting to paint in the underlying turpentine wash.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo I took from our deck just outside from the kitchen.

And no, we are not eating any of our wild turkeys for Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Paintings

Pachyderm Parade
Original Oil
6.75" X 14"

Well, maybe I should say small paintings.

I find playing with sizes less than one square foot interesting. With a small working space, I can try out ideas and use different styles. This painting is loose and I worked to bring in an expansive feel in a painting less than 7 inches high. As you can see from the tiger painting Cool Stripes posted below, I used a tighter style especially around the cat's face.

Another advantage to these types of paintings is that it gives me a breather from major "statement" pieces. I can work out problem areas as I go and don't need to have all the painting decisions made before I start. For instance, in Pachyderm Parade my reference had a lot more vegetation to the right of the lead elephant. I decided to take out the dense bushes to enhance the feeling of space. When I did my underlying sketch I put no detail in that area and then winged it. I also bumped up the contrast on the elephants. Countless other decisions were made on the fly.

In pieces of a medium size, 18" X 24", or large ones over 6 square feet, I spend a lot of time in the planning stage working out just how I will tackle certain areas before I even pick up a paintbrush. These small paintings let me try out fresh and intriguing paths and let my often logical intellectual approach take a back seat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Near Baltimore?

You are in luck! This weekend, November 13th, 14th, and 15th is the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland.

I will be exhibiting 21 new original oil paintings at The Elks. There is also another building of fine art paintings (The Tidewater Inn), 2 buildings for sculptures, a large building for carvers, dog trials, raptor demonstrations, goose and duck calling contests, great food, and more.
For complete details:
I hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cats and Water

Cool Stripes
7.5" X 13.5"
Original Oil

Tigers almost demand to be painted. This largest feline has a magnificent coat and likes water. Since I adore cats and enjoy painting the many moods of water, I find the "tiger in water" painting one of my very favorite subjects.

Friday, November 6, 2009

And now for something completely different

Tonight I will be singing in the Fox Theatre with the Spokane Symphony Chorale. This is an auditioned group of 83 selected to sing with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

This evening will be a bit different. Rather than singing with the Orchestra, the Chorale’s pieces will be a capella (with some organ accompaniment on two pieces), and the Orchestra will have their own pieces.
All of our pieces are sung in Latin.

Crucifixus II [8] by Antonio Lotti
Crucifixus A’ 10 by Antonio Lotti
Pater Noster by Igor Stravinsky
Ave Maria by Igor Stravinsky
Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri

On the final piece, I was selected to be one of the 3 altos in the small group of 12 singing from the balcony. The main chorus, the chanters, and the small group sing at different times in the work until the end when we finish in 9 part harmony.

The Theatre holds approximately 1600 people and we expect to have a good audience tonight.

Lest you think all we do is "churchy" music, our Holiday Pops concert is Dec 4th, 5th, 6th. And, on Dec 31st, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and the Spokane Symphony Chorale will be performing Beethoven’s 9th. (In German, of course!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Playing It Fast and Loose

8" X 17"
Original Oil

Well, maybe not fast, but loose. After completing a painting like Good Day of Hunting with lots of intricate detail, I like to change it up by working with a more impressionistic touch.

In the Ngorongoro crater bottom I saw this group of lionesses. Midday, they were taking their ease. Of course I took lots of reference photos, but more importantly, I just watched them. The challenge in the painting was to figure out which positions I would use and how many of them would be included (I left some out) to capture that siesta moment.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Completed Painting

Good Day of Hunting
11" X 16.5"
Original Oil

The sage foreground was finally dry enough so I could scan the painting. Small adjustments to the background and some overall "little touch here and there" was all I think the painting needed.
This painting is one of 20 original oil paintings going to The Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland. The show runs Nov. 13th - 15th. (Special preview night Nov. 12th.)
Tomorrow is "packing day." Or, I could say, "puzzle day." What is the most efficient use of volume and weight? You have 14 wooden crates of various sizes. Twenty paintings and some prints. You want to ship the fewest number of boxes to limit the weight from the wooden crates, but, if the boxes are too big, you are charged extra for dimensional weight. Oh yeah, and each layer of paintings must be totally flat so the next layer of paintings does not torque in shipping and crack the frames. And you have one afternoon to figure this out.
Wish me luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hunting painting - still in progress

This next stage was all about the chocolate lab. I started with the head and moved through the chest, over to the tail and finished with the legs.
(Note: all these images are a little blurry. When I am finished, I'll scan the painting and you will be able to see the detail.)

One thing which always takes me more time are unnatural colors. I am so accustomed to using the colors of nature that when I need to paint something like the dog collar in vivid reds, it takes more time for me to mix the colors. They just aren't second "nature" to me.

I also spent a little time on the background. I wanted it muted, but there were places where it was distracting. I am not done with it yet, but I think it is moving in the right direction.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Yes, even a time-oriented, organized artist like me can get distracted. It is hard to get back to the easel when this is what I see out my window. I first heard the turkeys. Seems they found the apples which had fallen from our tree. As they pecked at the apples, sometimes their beak would get caught deep inside and they had to flip up their heads to free themselves.

Of course, this meant the apple went flying. (particularly amusing when the apple then hit another turkey.) The other turkey would then start into the apple while the first turkey went to claim the wandering fruit. Before long, there were 7 turkeys and about 5 apples in the air.

Well, all the commotion attracted the deer. A young buck, doe, and fawn wandered over and yes, found the apples tasty. OK, now we had turkeys and deer all vying for apples in various stages of elevation.

Yeah, I get distracted.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In Progress

First I started with the background. Knowing I wanted to put detail into the hunter and the dog, I decided on a soft background. If I had put a lot of vegetation in the distance, I think it would have distracted from the main subjects.

After playing with the background, I moved on to the hunting vest, working my way from top to bottom. The camouflage shirt was tricky. It just didn't have that "RealTree" -like feel until I blended the all the colors with a soft brush and went back in and made sticks and branches.

Next, I tackled the pants. It was interesting moving around the wrinkles. When I finished the pants, I noticed that the hunting vest was looking too green and needed a more canvas feel. Adding some yellow ochre helped. Then to the gun. The most difficult part was the barrel. How to get the metal sheen. I used a combination of dark browns, light blues and thick paint (titanium white with a tad of cadmium yellow deep). When it dries and is varnished, I think the barrel will read as a metallic.

Finally in this set, I painted the arm, hand, and the pheasant tail feathers sticking out the back of the hunting vest.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hunting Season

Turpentine underwash

For many, the colors of Autumn herald the beginning of hunting season. Pheasant season has opened in South Dakota. What better time to begin another "hunting" painting.

I am also thinking about the upcoming Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD., November 13th - 15th. Along with my painting, The Retrieve, (see post Sept 21st), I thought it would be fun to have two companion pieces.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Denali Sentry

Denali Sentry
8.5" X 12.5"

Sunset light is dramatic, but I think there is something particularly special about the tonal quality in sunrise light. We spotted this bull moose at the beginning of our trip into Denali National Park. The subtle turning of the tundra, coupled with the light and size of the moose, made for a really fun painting.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

American Women Artists Show

The American Women Artists National Show for 2009 is being held in Easton, MD this year.

I am thrilled my painting Among Giants was selected for this prestigious show held at the South Street Art Gallery, 5 South Street. The show runs from Oct 10th - Nov 8th.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How about Vertical?

Owl Totem 12.5" X 8.5"

With the same size in mind, I thought I would try a vertical format.
In Ketchikan, Alaska, I was quite taken by the numerous totems, especially this one. It has a story which is obscured by time. The great-horned owl seemed to make for a great story-teller.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country
8.5" X 12.5"

One often thinks of Montana as Big Sky Country. Well, after being both in both Montana and Kenya, I’m not sure which I would put my money on. The sunset skies I encountered in Amboseli, in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, were awesome.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Young Stripes

Young Stripes
8.5" X 12.5"

Yes, my new perfect size is 8.5" X 12.5". Small enough that I can try out fun and interesting ideas, and large enough to enable a good amount "stuff" going on.

I have painted other small format zebra pieces, but this time wanted to explore a couple of new elements. The first is the brown and furry-looking stripes of a young zebra. Secondly, I wanted to play with the sense of distance by softening the look of the zebra herd in the background.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Perfect Size

About a month ago, I remembered reading in a book I have that years ago Bob Kuhn had found the perfect size. I didn’t remember what it was, but knew he used those dimensions for quite a number of his paintings. The paintings were smaller in scale and he liked the format and detail he could put into the composition. Thinking, "why reinvent the wheel," I found the book in which he was quoted. He was talking about this perfect size and how a friend had suggested he paint all the big North American game with these dimensions.

"Perfect," I thought. I’d probably want to reduce the size but I could keep the same proportions. Now, all I had to do was find the size in the book. I found it. 14.5" X 18.5".

Ick! What a horrible size! Granted Bob Kuhn’s paintings were wonderful, but no matter how many ways I looked at it, the 1:1.28 ratio just didn’t appeal to me. Too square.

So, it was time to invent my wheel, my "perfect" size.

The first consideration, I wanted it less than one square foot. Secondly, I didn’t want it to be a "standard" size, (8" X 10" or 9" X 12".) After about an hour of calculations, taking boards and looking at them up close and from across the room, I got it.

So, for now, my perfect size is .........

(You didn’t expect me to tell you in this blog did you? The first of the next 5 or 6 paintings at this size will be posted in the next several days.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Retrieve

The Retrieve
Original Oil painting
13.75" X 20"

The completed painting, though it hasn’t been varnished. The spray varnish I use (Krylon Kamar) will bring out the richness of the browns and even-out the shine. Since I used a heavy hand with thickness of the paint for the grass, I will wait a bit before I varnish.

One change I made from my drawing was the length of the dog’s extended foreleg. My reference might have shown it that way, but it didn’t "look right" to me. I don’t consider my beginning drawing locked in stone (or paint.) It is a guideline, subject to modification.

I am looking forward to more dog (and Hersey paintings.) Now that I have a better grasp on the "dog thing", I think it would be fun to do my next dog painting with a dog in water (water being such a fun subject to explore in oil paint.) Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Retrieve (in Progress)

Here is the continuation of my chocoate lab painting. I began with the grasses and didn’t want to go too bright or detailed. The focus should stay on the head of the dog and I look at the rest as being incidental.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Understanding the "Dog Thing"

I am a cat person. Always have been. I get teary eyed when I watch cat commercials on TV and a meow will touch my heart like little else. So, it has taken me a while to understand the "dog thing." I like dogs, but they aren’t cats.

However, something happened when my husband got a girlfriend. Her name is Hersey and she is a chocolate lab. I began to understand that unique connection between a man and his dog. And, more succinctly, between a man and his hunting dog.

Hersey and my husband have been best buddies since she came home with my neighbor as a pound puppy about 3 1/2 years ago. Wanting to see this relationship in action, I had the opportunity to go pheasant hunting with my husband and "his" dog. It was fascinating watching them work together. Hersey’s heart and nose rival the best hunting dogs. Her movements exact when she flushes, her drive to the downed bird impressive, and her joy in the retrieval - infectious.

Below is the start of the painting, The Retrieve. This is my underpainting, a turpentine wash of burnt sienna and raw sienna.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Small Works - Big Impressions

Two of my paintings, Penguin Party and Last Light have been accepted into the Society of Animal Artists Small Works - Big Impressions show at The Wildlife Experience in Parker, CO.
The show will run from November 7th, 2009 - January 3rd, 2010, and every piece in the show is available for purchase.
Last Light
Original Oil - 4.5" X 15
$1100. (including custom framing) Penguin Party
Original oil - 8" X 13.75"
$1250. (including custom framing)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alaska Trip

I just returned from a 17 day trip to Alaska. This was a special trip because it was with my husband and my parents. Dad just turned 85, and he and Mom have been married almost 52 years. What great fun we had.

We started in Anchorage, then headed down to Seward, "catching" the Exit Glacier before grabbing the ferry in Whittier to Cordova. We arrived in Cordova just in time to catch a day when it officially rained 5.5 inches. Some would bewail their bad luck. Not this foursome. The heavy rains meant that the rivers and waterfalls were wildly exciting.

I’m sure you don’t want all the stories from the trip, but I’ll share a few highlights. We drove about 2000 miles the first 10 days. Dad and Jim climbed up to and on the Worthington Glacier.... in the pouring rain. It rained parts of every day EXCEPT the 2.5 days at Denali when our main trip into the park was crystal clear and the mountain, magnificent.

Jim and I followed a very nice family group of ptarmigan in the tundra through the mist and low clouds. Some of the birds came within a few feet. I envision some moody paintings from that encounter.

Fortunately, we had a number of good close views of caribou (especially fun as Mom and Dad had not seen them in the wild before.) Several times we were close to cow moose with calves, and we saw some particularly large bull moose at Denali.

Birds included Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Short-earred owl, Great Blue Heron, Tundra Swan, and Grouse.
And, mustn’t forget the grizzlies. Our sightings make for some fun and dynamic stories. (And, future paintings!)
My folks, Alden and Barbara Besse, at Denali

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Laumeister Fine Art Competition

Held at the Bennington Center for the Arts, Bennington, VT, this show was judged by internationally recognized artist Albert Handell.
What an honor to have my painting, Leaving the Harbor, juried in. The show runs from September 19th - November 29th, 2009.

When I saw this fishing boat leaving the harbor in the late afternoon, it had such a nostalgic feel. The nets, the warm sun on the deck, the rigging, all the contributed to a sense of timeless purpose. Men gathering bounty from the sea.

13" X 20"

The subject matter is a bit of a departure for me, but every now and then, I feel called to do something different. (I have noticed that most non-wildlife pieces I paint include some aspect of water.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Inspiring and Humbling

I recently returned from the Oil Painters of America Western Regional Show. It was refreshing, inspiring, and humbling to have a painting among the chosen. Very few wildlife pieces - you could count them on one hand. The show consisted of 150 paintings, most were still lifes and landscapes.

A wonderful landscape is Calvin Liang’s Gondola, Venice. The subtle lighting and brilliant use of oranges and yellows is unfortunately not apparent in the image on the web.

The still life which caught my eye was Elizabeth Pruitt’s Lilacs and Lace. The soft edges were masterfully handled.

In addition to the show reception, we had seminars throughout the day including an insightful oil painting demonstration by judge, Jeff Watts.

Friday, August 7, 2009

OPA Regional Exhibition

The Oil Painters of America Western Regional Exhibition opens tomorrow at the Howard/Mandville gallery in Kirkland, WA. Located near Seattle, this show will run at the gallery from August 8th to August 30th. The gallery is located at 120 Park Lane, Suite D.

I am thrilled that my painting
The Return - Whooping Cranes
was accepted for the show.

In August 2008, I was accepted as a member of the Oil Painters of America. Since then, I have had a painting accepted for the first regional and national shows I have entered.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Finishing and Choosing the Title

For the leopard, I painted the spots first. The surrounding color was next and then I went back and touched up the spots. Putting in the "black" spots first helps me get a feeling of how the underlying muscle structure can be portrayed which then aids in the shading. With a leopard this small, it was inevitable that my background shading on the leopard’s body would cover the edges of the spots I had just painted. Hence, the spot do-over.

Sometimes I have a title and an idea for a piece years before I paint it. Other times the title will come to me during the painting process. And lastly, there are paintings, like this one, where I struggle for a title once the painting is completed. Yesterday afternoon it came to me. I was thinking of the fact that the painting is a silhouette. Serengeti Silhouette
Original Oil by Linda Besse
22.75" X 27"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wet on Wet

One of the problems of working wet on wet is that, well, it is wet. How do you paint detail in the center of a painting when resting your hand on the board will smear your work?

This problem was solved was by my ingenious husband who saw me struggling to paint with my right hand while it was steadied in the air by my left. He built me an easel and the best feature is that my hand now rests on an ergonomic board which can be moved vertically to any position.
(You can see the edges of the clamps on either side.)

On to the painting. I have finished the haunch of the zebra.
I saw this leopard coming down the tree in the Serengeti and there was no zebra. But, I really like leopards and I thought I’d give him dinner. Also, I liked adding an element which enhanced the story.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Confession

I am not the only artist who has heard that it must be "so much fun" to paint. Many times it is. But there are times when it can best be described as tedious drudgery.

A professional singer does scales. A football player runs drills. A student works on his calculus. None of these activities could be considered "fun."

But, they are necessary to achieve the final result. The perfect pitch aria, the touchdown, the.... well, maybe calculus was a bad example.

A "this is no fun" mantra accompanied painting some of the foliage and smaller branches. I couldn’t just blob on the green if I wanted that airy feeling of the acacia. So, it was slogging through it, bit by bit to achieve just the tone I wanted.

Detail of painting.

The next step is to paint the zebra and leopard.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Right Color

Back to the leopard and the tree.
(continued from blog entry July 27th)

In some paintings, one element can mean the difference between a successful painting and one that falls short. The color of the leaves of the acacia are crucial to this painting’s success. If they don’t capture the light and airy nature of the tree, I don’t think the painting will be effective. So, I spent quite a bit of time mixing greens. I like to have all my colors for something like this mixed before I begin. That enables me to study the color combinations and I can gage more accurately how they will work in the piece.
With so much foliage to paint, I decided to start in small sections. At least I could feel like I accomplished something as I completed section after section.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Cash for Clunkers" Poster Child

Oh, I could talk more about the painting and the tree, but I just have to share this. Yesterday, I bought a car. But this was no ordinary purchase. It was a car we have been eyeing for a long time. The Suzuki SX4 Crossover.

What makes the purchase exciting is that our 1985 GMC Suburban with over 322,000 miles qualified for the $4500 Cash for Clunkers rebate. We purchased the Suburban from our folks in 1989 for $6500. And after 20 years and 280,000 miles, we get 69% of our money back in the trade. Amazing! And we received an additional Suzuki $2000 customer rebate, a dealer rebate, and a Suzuki "gas for the summer" certificate.

I did have to drive the Suburban in 100 degree heat (with no air conditioning) for almost 3 hours to the dealer. Would it make it? Would it overheat? Could I even open the hood? Not to worry. Like it has for many years, the Suburban was a trooper and delivered me to the dealer safely.

Of course, EVERYONE at the dealership had to come out to see this clunker!!! When asked what color it was for the forms, the answer was easy. Two-tone. Blue and Rust.

So long Blue. You were a wonderful vehicle and you can be proud of all the times you: pulled other vehicles out of the snow, conquered rock strewn mountain trails for geology field work, drove us to Alaska so we could camp and go fishing, and carried heavy construction loads .....without complaint. You served us well and we will remember you fondly.

I kissed the Suburban good-bye.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Next Step

Now with the turpentine wash completed, I can start with my oil paints. I begin with the sky, which is really minimal background to the silhouette. A slight blue in the upper right and lower center. In softening the sky in the lower right, I painted over the "curve-up" of that lower right most branch. It was the only way to avoid hard edges for the sky. No problem. When I get to the fine detail of the leaves and branch, I’ll paint the curve in.

I thought rather than working top to bottom (as is my preference), I would "build" the structure of the painting and put the tree in next. Also, since my browns usually dry in a day or so, the green leaves of the acacia will paint nicely over the top. There will be a little mixing of color. That will give the painting a natural look, but it won’t be enough to make the greens muddy. With the tree so dark, I need that lacy, clean color to bring out the light.
Now I am done with my basic structure. I’ll be making modifications as I continue painting, a little sunlight on the branch here, some dark patches there, a lot more little branches. But, the framework is going in the direction I had hoped.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Painting in Progress

A step I find very important for my oil paintings is the under-painting. Once I finish a drawing on the gessoed board, I use a turpentine wash to establish values before I begin with my linseed-based oil paints.
On this leopard painting, the tonal under-painting was quite complicated. I wanted to immediately get a sense of where each limb of the tree was in the depth of field. Was the composition going to work?The under-painting gives me a feeling of the balance in the final painting. Right now I don’t see any problems for which to prepare. If there does appear to be a balance issue at this stage of a painting, I make a mental note that I will need to add light or dark to an area to compensate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not 1, not 2, but Three!

I just received notice that THREE of my paintings were accepted as finalists for the Artist’s Magazine’s 26th Annual Art Competition. They are still tallying numbers for this year, but there were 11,400 entries for the 25th Annual competition.
The 5 categories for the competition were Abstract/Experimental, Animal/Wildlife, Landscape/Interior, Portrait/Figure, and Still Life/Floral. All of my winning entries were in the Animal/Wildlife category. I am thrilled to have this honor bestowed on not only 1 of my paintings, but three.
The winners:

Snow Flurries
Original Oil by Linda Besse
24" X 48"

Flamingo Dance
Original Oil by Linda Besse
16" X 30"

Giraffe & Company
Original Oil by Linda Besse
27" X 13.25"