Saturday, August 24, 2013


When I began this painting, I knew it would be a different approach for me. With a very subtle and abstract background, the goal is to make the main subjects "pop."

I envisioned a taupe background color and mixed 3 different shades making the lightest color the warmest. The darkest color at the top and bottom is purposely painted moving in and out of the other 2 shades. If I had painted an even gradient from top to bottom, I think the painting's movement would have suffered. 

To give the painting depth, I wanted cows in the background slightly above center. Grabbing a small angle brush and the darkest of the three colors, I painted cow streaks. There is one in the center which reads more like a cow and tricks the mind into seeing more. One of my abstract groupings to the left of the foreground cowboy kind of looks like another cowboy on a horse. A happy accident. The background center cow still needs a tad more definition, but I will wait until the cowboy and horse are painted.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


There are collectors, galleries, and artists who are proponents of a limited genre for an artist. You are a wildlife painter, a western painter, a landscape painter, a sporting dog painter, a still-life painter, etc. Pick one, maybe two of the categories and you will be safe. Everyone will understand your "brand."

For me, I don't think painting should be safe. While I am mostly thought of as a wildlife artist, that is not how I look at it. I don't think of myself as an artist who paints wildlife, but rather as an animal lover who paints. There are also other subjects which grab my attention that I want to capture in oil.

Below you can see a "western" painting I am starting. For me, it is not so much a western painting as it is a story which I wanted to share.

First, the posture of the horse intrigued me. My initial thought was to put a rattlesnake on the ground in front of the horse. On second thought, my lack of good rattlesnake reference (is that a good thing?) cancelled that idea. What about some cattle? In looking through the reference, one image stood out. A cow and newborn calf. Once I mirrored them, the composition fell into place. Below you can see the raw sienna/burnt sienna turpentine value study.

Friday, August 16, 2013

When is a painting finished?

This question has plagued artists for centuries.
It is the culmination of questions such as:
Is there too much detail?
Is there too little detail?
Is it too dark or too light?
Does the hue reflect the mood?
And you could probably add a dozen more questions.

I "finished" this painting and signed it.

The next morning, the thin background tree was bothering me. So, I took it out. The more I looked at the piece, the more the background bothered me. I made the mountain more purple-y from its brighter blue and painted in a lot of trees. Finished. Hmm. Still not right.

OK, time for some drastic modification. I grabbed my palette knife (which I only use to mix paint) and scraped off a large section of background. I thought moving the horizon line down would add focus to the cat. Painting in more sky, I also softened the mountain/sky intersection.

Now to the rest of the background. I had originally painted in some light greens which while pretty, did nothing for my new plan. Out they came. A lot of dabbling in the background, trying various colors. Every few minutes I would step back to look at the piece. My mind was starting to fill in background objects from slight hints of shapes. Yes, this is the right direction. I continued to play with colors and textures until I was "finished."

It can be a little scary to scrape off a thoughtfully painted section, but I have learned to not fall in love with my own brushstrokes. The end result is what I am after and if that means altering my carefully developed plan and working by intuition, the palette knife is there to help.

12" X 9"
Original Oil

Monday, August 12, 2013

Surrounded by Nature

Though my husband and I have lived here for almost 26 years, I never tire of the wildlife I see. Almost every day we see deer and I smile each time I see them. I took these photos last evening standing in my drive looking into my side yard.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taking Chances

When I paint during the summer, I like to challenge myself. Dare to create the unusual. Granted during the rest of the year it is important to stretch, but during these hot summer days, why not turn up the heat in the studio?

A fun direction is to turn a grand scale idea into a miniature painting. Yes, this piece took me much longer than a work this size normally would and there were times (maybe on the 37th wildebeest) that I did wonder what was in the water when I came up with this idea. In the end, I am pleased with the result and the painting is slated for an upcoming miniature show and sale. Bet no one else in the show will have painted 64 wildebeests!

7.75" x 13.5"
Original Oil