Monday, June 7, 2021

What color is fog?

This spring I have been working on eleven paintings for the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard Island, Massachusetts.

On one piece in particular, I procrastinated. I had a vision of how I wanted the painting to feel but couldn't see the steps. I wanted fog. Usually one would think of fog as whitish gray. That would not work for this painting. I thought sleeping on it would help. It didn't. Giving it another day of rolling around in my head also failed.

 It was time to just dive in and start mixing paint. The reference photos I took had lots in the background: trees, other boats, and a few houses. I needed to ignore all of that.

Starting with a consistent (mostly neutral) color for the background, I painted from the top toward the lower half. As I moved down, I began adding more texture and then more vibrant color. 

In painting water, I work with it until it looks wet to me. Some stray colors add to the believability.

Tranquil    27" X 18"   Oil

This painting (along with 10 other paintings of mine) will be in the Louisa Gould Gallery for the July 1 Opening of the gallery's Icons of Summer Show.

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Spreadsheet

 If you are an artist and your eyes started to glaze over at the title of this blog, The Spreadsheet, I understand.

We usually think of numbers with the word spreadsheet. Years ago I found keeping track of entry/competition/event deadlines difficult with just various folders and scraps of paper. There was the added complication of figuring out which paintings to enter. When would I hear from this show so I would know if I could enter a certain painting in another show?

That is when I created my Competition Spreadsheet. Of course, being an artist, the spreadsheet had to have colors!

The next step was to figure out the layout, what categories, and in what order.  Rather than get fancy with it, I opted for the basics in this order:

Date Due, Date Results, Name of Application, Submitted Date, Paintings submitted, and two additional info lines. The info might be size limitations, which gallery, whether the painting must be for sale, which painting was accepted, or when the painting needed to arrive.

For colors I use blue for submitted, green for accepted, tan for not accepted, yellow for did not enter, and neon pink for an upcoming deadline. 

For the next year I save the file with a new name, change all the backgrounds back to white and erase the details except the Name of Application entries. As dates become available, they are added and the process begins again. In the past few years I have added a number of shows/events/competitions.

Here is this year's current spreadsheet.

You might ask, why bother? I have a number of reasons.

  1. So I do not miss a deadline
  2. So I do not submit the same painting to two events at the same time
  3. To keep track of what was entered last year
  4. To gain exposure to galleries hosting various shows
  5. To gain exposure in various online formats or magazines
  6. To win cash or prizes 
  7. To sell paintings
  8. To participate in shows
For instance, last year for the first time I entered two paintings in the American Academy of Equine Artists. Both were accepted and Range Runners won the Jean Bowman Award. Also last year for the first time I entered the National Oil & Acrylic Painters Society Spring International Online Competition. My painting Ice Bear won Best of Show. I have since joined NOAPS and have been in their 2020 Best of America Show, the 2021 Best of America Small Works Show, and the 2021 Spring International Online Exhibit.

This might seem like a lot of work but setting up this spreadsheet has made the application process so much easier and clearer for me.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Social Harmony


Social Harmony, 14.5" X 23", original oil

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Sociable Weaver nest cont'd

 For the sunlit side of the nest on the left side of the vertical branch I used some of the deep orange for the shadows and a mixture with naples yellow and cadmium yellow deep for the highlights.


    While I could use a bit of freedom in creating the nest, detail needs to be painted for the structure of the supporting branches before I can add in the greenery.  Without compromising the careful balance created by the birds in crafting their architectural wonder, I have "moved" and modified some of the outlying branches for a better balance in the painting.

Above is a detail photo of the first perched sociable weaver for the painting. I decided to have five birds in the piece. Four are perched and one is flying. I could have painted dozens or just one. When I was fleshing out the composition, I tried numerous positions and placements and the five seemed to work the best.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sociable Weavers

   It has been a while since I have posted. My apologies. My brush has been busy and I will be sharing those paintings from start to finish.

  Sociable weavers are master builders. Living in congregate groups, their massive nests are impressive in large trees and are unbelievable when suspended in smaller ones. A particular nest in the Namib Desert of Namibia caught my eye for its miracle of engineering.

   With some editing and some strategic placing of some of the birds I was ready to start on the painting.

   One often thinks of a desert as a yellow mass of sand. The Namib Desert, considered by some to be the oldest desert on earth, is filled with color. Its age has contributed to the oxidation of iron in the sand. The color of the sand in sunlight is a warm orange and in the shadows it is a stunning blueish purple.


   The nest had sticks and birds everywhere. The trick was to capture the texture of the nest without painting every twig. On my palette I mixed four different colors for the rusty orange nest on the right side of the vertical branch. Using a small flat angled brush I started at the bottom.

   To give the nest that layered feeling and reflect the weathered condition of the outermost layer, some of the upper part of the nest was painted with splashes of the cooler background color.


Monday, March 22, 2021

Finished and scanned


Squabble    Original Oil    16" X 24"

 It has been a while since I posted. For this piece, I wanted to wait until I could scan the painting. My camera was not catching some of the nuances which my scanner was able to capture.

Much of the "pink" was painted with a mixture containing Michael Harding Crimson Lake. I have been having fun exploring my "new" oil colors from both Michael Harding and Richeson. Though many of my choices could be created from my Rembrandt standard palette, I am playing around with bolder selections of color.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Starting the birds


For this piece, I decided to start on the heads first rather than completing a bird and moving on to the next.

Saturday, February 20, 2021



I like to block in the larger sections of water before paintings the highlights. This way the lighter paint can blend in to the wet darker sections.

Quick phone photos.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Heading to Florida - Virtually

 It has been snowing on and off at our home for several days so I thought a "painting visit" to Florida was in order. 

home with 8+ inches, photo by Linda, 2/17/2021

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida is a wonderful spot to see wading birds. One of my favorite, the roseate spoonbill, will be featured in this piece.

I start with the mangrove. One could paint every branch and leaf but that would distract from the birds. Much of what I am painting is the suggestion of the foliage.

Saturday, February 13, 2021



Wild Mustang     22" X 32"    Original Oil


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

More Horse

 For an animal in a painting this size (22" X 32") I would generally use a larger brush. However, I am finding a small flat angle brush more satisfying. After his coat is complete, I will blend some of the edges to soften the look.

The horse is a bit too light in places. I'll be adjusting this once I start working on the foreground.

Friday, February 5, 2021


   Sunset inspired this painting.

  To take me around, I was fortunate enough to have a private guide associated with the Pryor Mountain Mustang Center and the Wild Horse Foundation who knew the name of every horse and to which stallion band it belonged. We took a small ATV to the general area of the horses and then starting hiking. My first glimpse of a small herd among trees took my breath away - and it was like that the rest of the trip!

   We had a perfect ending to the day. The very last vestiges of the sun were present and lighting the whole area with a rich orange glow. The color on several red bay stallions was amplified.  After an 11-hour day with these magnificent horses, this was more than I could have hoped for.


quick cellphone photos of the painting in progress

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Wild Mustangs

   After completing such a complicated painting (see Buon Cibo, Buon Vino), it is a bit refreshing to move to this straightforward composition. A simple design can seem deceptively easy. But, with few distractions from the main focus, everything is more exposed.

   I started with the sky. This I thought would be the easy part. After mixing several colors, I applied the paint carefully, not too heavy so it felt "airy" in places. The background mountains were painted next. A darker, richer sunset color was placed next to the mountains. It was then I realized the sky was just not the right color. The next morning I grabbed the palette knife and scraped off as much sky paint as I could. Not an auspicious beginning.

   However, I found I could take parts of the peachy color I had mixed the day before and add naples yellow to achieve more of what I wanted. With the bits of wet paint still in streaks on the board, this new color became what I envisioned. Next to the mountains I left a sliver of the dark peachy/red color which will tie the background to the horse.

I've blocked in the ground color with lighter peachy areas which will be the base for sunlit sections. To offset the left side darker area of the ground, the right bottom edge will be in shadow.

Before continuing on the ground, I will complete the horse. This is one of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs. These horses are descendants of the first horses brought to America by the Spanish.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Churchill Wild

Churchill Wild contacted me to do a blog post on my painting Ice Bear. The post generously turned in to an article on that painting and my experiences in their lodges. You can see their post below.

 Churchill Wild guest Linda Besse wins multiple awards for Seal River polar bear painting

 While you are on the Churchill Wild site, you will want to visit their Photo and Video Galleries which will give you an idea of how special this part of the world is. 

Thanks Churchill Wild for the great adventures!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021



                                    Buon Cibo, Buon Vino       Original Oil       24" X 21"

 Title translated from Italian.  Good Food, Good Wine

This painting took much longer than I anticipated. Was it worth it? Was it self-indulgent? Will it sell when most of my collectors expect wildlife art from me?

I think the questions are tied together.

One of the definitions of worth: good or important enough to justify.
Good for whom? Important for what?

I would have to say the painting was good for me. It certainly challenged me. The painting made me take my time and be deliberate with each brush stroke. Sometimes that meant being really loose with the paint to build a bin of lettuce and sometimes that meant more tighter control with lettering or wine bottles. In order to craft the concept of a more timeless store, I had to put aside reality in order to present authenticity. Plastic bins were “made” in to wooden ones, different shelves were created, a figure at the back of store and a modern scale were removed all to have the painting read as today’s market or one from the 1940's.

Was the painting self-indulgent? In the same length of time I could have completed 2 or 3 paintings.
I’d thought of doing a piece like this since 2013. Why did I wait so long? A decade ago I am not sure my skill set could have painted Buon Cibo, Buon Vino in just this way. I am glad I waited.
By pushing myself, I can transfer those techniques to my future paintings.

Will it sell? I have no idea. Is a painting only successful if it sells? I would hope not. It is hard for any artist to definitively know a painting will sell unless it is a commission (and even then there could be issues.) But, during a global pandemic, is it wise to stray from your usual genre? I don’t know. Maybe it is self-indulgent to paint whatever you want. But if one has passion for an idea, I think it is important to paint it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

More Vegetables and...


The peppers and zucchini were in bright blue plastic bins which I have transformed in to wooden crates.

And now for the reason this scene intrigued me, the wine bottles. 


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Fruit and Vegetables

 Time to fill the produce boxes now that shelves are "built." 

The signs in Italian for the fruit add interesting depth. I like having them with a haphazard placement as if someone just naturally stuck them there.

And now, vegetables.

At this point, I am convinced that I could stock this entire store faster than painting it!  

While I often paint eight hours a day, after 4 or 5 hours on this piece I am calling it a day. The differing textures, the varying colors (some not used in my traditional wildlife pieces), and the detail requires intense concentration. I am also doing quite a bit of editing on the fly.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Building Shelves


Continuing with my plan to work on the structural elements first, I am building shelves.


 For the back of the store, I added horizontal spice racks to aid in the illusion of a specific depth to the store.


 The top of the wall at the back of the store was not reading well. I've changed it to a sage green which appears to be working.

And finally, time for some fruit and vegetables. Lots more produce on the way!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Moving inside the shop

 I'm going with the flow of the painting in deciding what sections to work on next. It seemed establishing the lower bench was logical. 

With the lower bench mostly completed, now I am playing with the back wall and the shadow from the bottles.

As I "move in" to the back of the shop, I am keeping my edges softer and the items less defined.

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Shop


The full text of the blue banner above this shop in Genoa is Bio - Soziglia
When I sealed my drawing with a turpentine wash, most of the wash was with raw sienna. For the inside of the shop, I used radiant yellow for the upper part of the wash and moved to a cadmium orange in the lower section. I am using the intensity of the wash to create a warm hot spot in the painting.

The walls under the banner were too light did not have the warmth I wanted so I have darkened them.

This painting will take a while with all the details. The different textures are intriguing to paint. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start on a piece like this. I opted to work on the structural elements and supports before painting the contents of the boxes.

Friday, January 1, 2021

How big?


I hope 2021 greatly exceeds your expectations!

How big do I make this painting?

This is a question I often struggle with as I work on ideas for compositions. Some of the questions I ask are:

1.) At what size would this subject look best?

2.) Do I need a small, medium, or large painting to fill a gap in my available paintings?

3.) Have I done a number of small pieces and it is time for a larger one or visa versa?

4.) Where will the painting be going? Someone's home? Gallery? Show? and what size preferences or restrictions are in effect?

5.) If I don't have a set destination for the piece,  then what size do I feel like?

This next painting idea has been rolling around in my head since 2013. It is inspired by a visit to Genoa, Italy and a walk I took along narrow back streets populated with small merchant shops. There will be no animals in the piece and I have several new techniques I am eager to try.

Why paint it now? It is a new year and I'd like to start with something quite different. My three shows in the first quarter have been postponed so I have one painting slot of time available in which to experiment and "stretch my brushes."

What size did I decide upon? 24" X 21".  This is larger than I would normally use for a "try something different and complicated and use new techniques" painting. But, I have been nursing the idea for over 7 years. Time to be bold and usher in 2021 with gusto .... and a glass of wine!

Stay tuned.