Saturday, December 30, 2023



 I like the broken bits of floating ice in the foreground. They break up the reflection of the foot. There are some adjustments I anticipate I'll want to make but will wait until the polar bear is painted.



 In this stage I am roughing in some of the colors I will use for the polar bear and making my brush strokes in the direction of his  fur.



Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Still needs more work


The water reflections are getting closer but after stepping back I don't like the two reflected "hills." My floating bits of ice are not horizontal which needs to be fixed. I also haven't figured out how much of the polar bear's front leg should be reflected. Maybe there should be floating ice to break up his reflection.

 Could I have figured all of this out before I started? I am not sure. And, there is something quite organic and beautiful in feeling your way through something new in a painting. I find this especially true when painting water (or frozen bits of it!)



Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Tackling water and reflections

 The closer snow is painted. To make it brighter than the distant snow I used a smidgen of cadmium yellow in the titanium white.
On to snow reflections and bits of floating ice.The snow the polar bear is standing on is rather complicated. The problem is how to make the floating ice stand out from the reflected snow bank. Not quite sure how to do that - yet, so I give myself the liberty of trying out some ideas. The joys of working with oil paint.

On the left side of the painting I have floating ice chunks in the shadow of the reflected snow. I think these bits work but I can't use this device for the lighter areas of reflected snow.

At this stage I am wondering what I got myself in to. It is a jumble. None of the reflected snow has been softened/blended so it looks especially confusing. I still like the concept so I will continue with the reflected snow and insert some floating ice bits where I think they look good. I knew this section was going to be the most challenging.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Solving Problems

 Just about every artist has had paintings which almost paint themselves. The brush takes over and you are along for the ride.

Then there are those paintings in which you feel like you are solving problems the whole time. Some of those pieces will never come together but some will be your best because you really pushed yourself.

This next painting I knew was going to be a problem-solving one. I have done a number of polar bear paintings and in each one I have "stretched my brushes."  I want this new piece to be brighter than Ice Bear (see below.)
Ice Bear
Other polar bear paintings I have done have included the northern lights or peach skies. 
Arctic Fire
Arctic Reflections
In this painting I want bright snow and interesting water reflections. First problem, what color to make the sky. I didn't want powdery blue but neither did I want a really dark sky. Beyond that, there is making the polar bear "winter fat" as I've only been close to wild polar bears in summer and fall in remote northern Manitoba. Then there is the snow and sea ice (which is subtlety different than fresh water ice) and the finesse in creating convincing water reflections of the main mass of snow and the bits of floating ice.

The start


Friday, December 15, 2023

Finished and scanned


 Movie Star
 26" X 14" 
Original oil

In addition to finishing the giraffe's coat and mane, I added more blues to the far background to keep it further in the distance. To get an even "coat" of cooler tones I glazed on the color.
I started with the idea of using a simplified background to showcase the subject. You can see the background acts as a supporting element and lets the "movie star" shine.
And, this is what happens when I see a giraffe in Africa. The surroundings fade in comparison to this striking iconic African animal.

Monday, December 11, 2023

I See Spots

 I like to paint the spots before I start on the light interstices.

You can see I have finished the spots and started on the inside shadow. I got all the way from the upper neck to the bottom of the painting and realized the shadow was too light and needed to be darker and with more color. My next post will show the changes.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Trees and bushes

 One would think a subtle (blurry) background would be easy. I had a lot of trouble with this tree. It had to be in the background but not as much as the hillside. I tried a trunk and it kept drawing my eye which is exactly what I didn't want. After scraping the trunk paint off I thought of just having the left side of the tree showing. 

The background trees and bushes at the middle bottom also went through a transition. At first the trunks were a darker color but after painting a bluish purple over them and blurring the edges I had something I liked. They form another depth of field between the tree and the hillside.

The tree might look like it has a lot of detail. It has the idea of detail. 

I mixed a number of colors so I had some piles of paint and started with the darkest sections making a framework. Next up were the darker greens and blues, then medium greens, and then the lightest almost mint color was last. There are a lot of passages I would go over making it darker here, lighter there, more color here. Constantly stepping back to look at the painting from a distance and deciding this or that area needs attention was essential.

Some of the giraffe's head is also painted.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Subtle Background


I opted for a simple sky so not to distract from the detail in the rest of the painting.
Having the horizon tilted might seem like an odd choice but I felt it was more dynamic with the hill than a static zero degree tilt. In choosing the slant it needs to be balanced by other angles and features, otherwise the entire painting will feel out of kilter. Part of the balance comes from the strong upper right to lower left center line of the giraffe.
The background colors fall in the cool range to contrast with giraffe.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Showcasing with a simple background

 If you think the last painting I posted had a complicated background, you are correct. 

In this next piece I am showcasing the subject with a simplified background but one that does not go all the way to abstract. In almost all my paintings I like a sense of place with my animals. I've seen them in the wild and the background adds to their story.

After I draw my subject I do a light yellow ochre turpentine wash. Not only does this get rid of the blindingly white gessoed board staring at me, but the turpentine wash makes it easier for paint to glide over my gesso.

For this giraffe, I really wanted the spots to glow and lend a depth of color to the oil paint on top. After the first light turpentine wash had dried, I applied a much heavier turpentine wash made up of Rembrandt cadmium orange and Gamblin transparent earth orange. I'm not sure when I bought the Gamblin paint (and don't think I have used it before) but it had a nice effect in the mix. 
The right side of the giraffe used more of the Gamblin paint along with touches of Rembrandt's burnt sienna and burnt umber.

As you can see, this heavier turnpentine wash mimics how the spots will look. The lighter spots have a lighter colored wash. The time spent creating the spots with the turpentine wash plays well in to the final result.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023



Weather Wise
14" X 14"
Original Oil 

Above is the scanned painting so it looks a bit different than the in-progress phone photos.
One of the more tricky aspects was painting the lower part of the owl. I saw him on a branch which was not snow-covered so I needed to make it look like he was part of this snowy scene. His talons would have removed some of the branch's freshly fallen snow and his feathers would land in the snow but not fully remove it.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

My Snow Reference

 I thought you might like to see how I went from my snow reference photo to the background of this owl painting. While I didn't save each individual step, this should give you a flavor of how I modify my photos.
My first step was to look through maybe 60 or 70 of my snow photos. Fortunately, living in the woods in eastern Washington gives me many opportunities to step outside and grab some winter shots. I was looking for interesting snow when I hit upon a photo I took January 28, 2008. 

Photo 1. This photo was taken from my living room deck. I just love heavy snow on evergreen trees. This particular photo had potential because it incorporated close up boughs with distant ones. 

Photo 2. The photo editing program I like to use is Paint Shop Pro. While it is not as advanced (nor as complicated) as Photo Shop it has all the tools I need. And, I am not trying to create the perfect photo, but a guide to inform my background.
From Photo 1 I have used the Brightness/Contrast tool. I increased brightness and decreased contrast. I also used one of my favorite tools, Vibrancy. In Paint Shop Pro this tool is found under Hue/Saturation. Now that I have a more pleasing and colorful reference photo to work with I start looking for an interesting crop.

  Photo 3. This is the lower right section of the above photo. After various cropping options I thought a square format, which I rarely use, would work well for this painting. As I am working through this process I am renaming and saving the files as .tif to avoid losing details with a .jpg. 
As an example, this photo is called 
snow background 100-8255- bright - low contrast-v-crop 
The 100-8255 will lead me back to the original photo and the details following let me know what I did to the original photo. The v in the name is my shorthand for vibrant.

Photo 4. Here I have tried the Soft Focus tool to see how I like it. I think some of it will inform my background so I saved it as an additional guide for the painting. 
I have also tried increasing the warmth in the white balance, modifying brightness/contrast, increasing green, decreasing red, adding and subtracting vibrancy and a host of other changes. Photos 3 and 4 are the closest to what I want.


 Photo 3 and 4 are the beginning references of the painting's snowy background. Once I added the owl I cropped the background snow further. As I paint I change things to better fit the painting. These background reference photos may not look anything like the "real photo" Photo 1, but I believe the snow feels more real in the painting with the changes.
My yellow ochre turpentine light wash over my drawing also adds an additional element to the color scheme. The overall color in the painting is warmer than Photos 3 and 4 but the color mixing on my palette is close to the above.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Starting on the owl


I started with the owl's eyes. Now the owl can watch to make sure I am painting him correctly.

; )



Friday, November 10, 2023

More background


In this stage the bits of "white" haven't been painted yet. 

There are some areas which need attention and as the painting develops further they are addressed.
Note: quick phone photo



Monday, November 6, 2023

Close to Home

 While many of my subjects can be continents away, often my own backyard is inspiration for a painting.
The background for this painting is inspired by the trees and hillsides off my living room deck.

This is a rather complicated setting and rather than focus on one section of the painting or work from my usual top down, background to foreground, I am taking a different approach.

I started with the rightmost boughs which are closet to the viewer and will have the most detail. 

Most of the shadowed snow is done (though I keep tweaking it) and before I add the far background and the sunlit snow I am playing with the pine needles.
The upper left snow just down from the top is more of a blue/teal than a blue/purple. The sun is coming from this direction.


Thursday, September 14, 2023



All He Surveys 
Original Oil by Linda Besse
48" X 32"

The painting has been done for a bit but I wanted to post the scanned image rather than a quick phone photo.

This was a piece which certainly transported me back to a particular day and particular spot. Each day I worked on it I could almost feel the heat of the sun, the weight of my camera which I carried up from the bottom, and the solidness of this plateau in the middle of a lush floor beneath it.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Adding Vegetation

 As I did with the lower rocks, this lower flora is a suggestion of vegetation. I am not painting every leaf but rather creating shapes and colors. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Slow Going

 These rocks are taking a while for me to create.

Then again, they were formed after millions of years so I guess in the grand scheme of things, painting them is moving along quickly!

As I move to the bottom of the painting my rocks are getting less defined and less interesting. I want the focus on the upper rocks.

Thursday, August 24, 2023



One might say I am particular about my rocks. With an M.S. degree in Geology, if my painted rocks don't read well it is as if I only painted three legs of a horse. Color, texture, and relationship are always in play and need to reflect the geology of the setting.

I was intrigued by the inherent feel of movement of these sedimentary rocks. 



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Setting the Stage

Often I like to paint the animal last, saving the best for last. Here I have painted his spots so I don't have a blank spot where he is. After I finish the majority of the landscape, I'll work on him.



Saturday, August 19, 2023

New painting in progress

 Generally, most wildlife paintings fall in to two categories. Either the animal is the main focus or the animal is secondary to the landscape. My paintings usually fall in the former group, however, sometimes there are places which really speak to me. 

This spot in South Africa was a good climb. Our guide wanted to show us very old large pots used by the bushman to store grain. My husband and I were eager to make the trek to this remote spot on top of a rock plateau. Once there, the view was outstanding. The pottery was much larger than we thought it would be and there were ropes and nets still lying nearby in the covered large rock indentation. 

Sometimes to get from one covered chamber to the next we had to crawl

Checking out the pots

Kneeling beside them

One of the views

In one of the deep caves under a rock ledge, our guide looked in to see if there were any bats to show us. Seconds after he peeked inside with a flashlight, he leapt back and grabbed his gun (pointing it at the small cave entrance.) A large shape had leapt over his head! The only thing that big would have been a leopard. Once the guide deemed it was safe we looked inside the cave and noticed there were many daylight exits, one about 20 feet up with rock ledges all the way. We never saw the leopard but I associate this rock plateau with him and he provides the inspiration for the painting, even though the focus is on the landscape.

For this painting I am going big (at least for me.) The painting is 48" X 32".




Monday, July 31, 2023


 In the Oxford Dictionary recognition is defined as acknowledgment of something's existence, validity,
and in the Cambridge Dictionary in giving recognition people are showing admiration and respect for your achievements.
This may seem like an unlikely topic for an art blog. Aren't artists supposed to be above such things? In many cases we do work in isolation, creating our pieces without consideration of how they will be received by the "outside" world. 

However, I like to think of recognition as a positive word. If one is not chained to the praise associated with acknowledgement of one's work, recognition can be a force to advance one's creativity and push the boundaries of what an artist wishes to convey. Sometimes that happens when it is another artist who receives the award. We can ask ourselves how we can move beyond a plateau in our own work, reflecting our own interpretation of the world. How can we approach a subject, a technique, a color in a new way?

There are few artists who are not moved by receiving an award, especially one judged by one's peers. When a member of the public compliments a piece, even if they do not add it to their collection, don't we feel gratified that our work has resonated with someone? 
Recognition gives us a sign post that we are moving in the right direction.

I have a few recent recognitions I'd like to share. 
Buoy Six     Original Oil   8" X 9"
Finalist  2023 Richeson75 International Landscape, Seascape, & Architecture Art Contest

Duet     Original Oil    14" X 15"
Finalist  2023 Richeson75 International Landscape, Seascape, & Architecture Art Contest 
Buoy 23    Original Oil    11" X 10"
Meritorious 2023 Richeson75 International Landscape, Seascape, & Architecture Art Contest
Got Your Back     Original Oil    24" X 33"
Merit Award at the National Oil & Acrylic Painters Society’s Spring International Online Exhibit
This last one is recognition of a different sort. My painting Blue on Blue has been included in the Oil Painters of America Masters Show. As a Signature Member I am honored to have my work included in the Master Signature member show.
 Blue on Blue     Original Oil    24" X 24"
Oil Painters of America Masters Show 2023

August 3 - 31, 2023
Illume Gallery West
130 E. Broadway
Phillipsburg MT




Monday, July 10, 2023



Above is the photo from the previous post. 
(Note: none of the middle and foreground foam has been painted.)
I try to not hold my paintings too dear while creating them. Yes, I painted a section and liked it when I finished it, but if it is not effective with the whole it needs to be changed.
1.) the heavy lines here are distracting especially for a background element. I softened the whole area by adding more blue and blending into the existing paint.

2.) having foam here makes a confusing transition to the curl and draws attention away from the wave's "peak" in the middle of the painting.

3.) the inside of the curl needs to be darker and more blue (shadowed.)

4.) I wanted the feeling of pebbles underneath the waves and some dark areas but these heavy areas are too much. They are the first thing I see when looking at the painting

Those are just some of the alterations I made to finish the piece.

Below is the scan of the completed painting
After the Storm
Original Oil
25" X 48"

Friday, July 7, 2023

Almost Done


At this stage the wave is almost done. I still had to paint all the "white." For the lightest parts I use titanium white mixed with a tiny bit of cadmium yellow deep. This makes a warm white which gives the feeling the "white" is touched by sunlight.
For the foreground, I used larger brushes. There are some browns painted on the lower left as I wanted the feeling of pebbles underneath the water's surface. The foreground holds interest but not the viewer's immediate attention.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

More Wave

 The top of the curl is painted and before I start with the crazy foam zone, I like to put in the base.



 From the base I work up in to the foam. While my reference photos can be an aid, sometimes I just ignore them and feel my way around the wave. That entails a lot of stepping back from the painting to gauge how effective a section is. On a painting like this I expect to make changes as the wave evolves.