topiary cats

topiary cats

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Get Everything You Want for Christmas

My 5 year old basically got everything she wanted for Christmas. But not because she is some super-angel child (which she is most of the time) or any successful wheedling tactics.

No, she did it the old fashioned way and wrote a good solid list for Santa. She even put in there (somewhere) "tea for Mommy".

This list, however, was a little non-traditional, guaranteed to get Santa's attention. She used the back of a piece of paper that was floating around my apartment...the color reference I used when i painted Twilight...

Whatever works, right?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mr. Jitters

Drusilla and her 3 rat boys are staying with us for the holidays.  Here is a little painting of her hairless rat, Mr. Jitters.

2 hours, 8x10 oil on canvas

Friday, December 10, 2010

Plein Air 39

It's 27 degrees out today (that's -3 for you Celsius fans) and I have a day off, so I went out painting in Central Park.  It was cold and I was standing on a steep slope which was really uncomfortable.

This morning before I left my friend sent me a text WITH CAPITAL LETTERS  telling me I HAD to get a copy of Pema Chodron's Unconditional Confidence as soon as possible.  So I did, because I usually recognize obvious Signs when I see them.

I started listening to the lecture right exactly as I started painting.  Pema's opening lines in the speech were about- the act of starting a painting- and I do mean I was literally laying out my first brush strokes on the blank panel as she was saying it.  And this was not a lecture on painting.

(By the way, it is an excellent lecture and I highly recommend it)

I like when things like this happen, the moments of obvious synchronicity.  Things for me have been very quiet on the spiritual front. And life in general.  I have felt uninspired and generally in a flat place.  Like the Nice Guidance Voices have gone quiet and have been busy with other things.  So it is really nice when the universe says HI I AM HERE!! in a way I cannot possibly miss or misinterpret.

Anyhow, here is the painting.  8x10 oil on panel, one hour, it was toned with yellow ochre but I like an earth red undertone better.

Palette: Fanchon Red, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow, Pthalo Green, French Ultramarine, and Burnt Umber.
I like this particular palette quite a lot, it might be my favorite plein air palette to date.

Today was also my new knife's first outing.  She had a great time.  I should have put more of that red leaf ground color in the rocks.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Here is Dave from this year's portrait swap.  I love portraiture and need lots of practice... next year, in addition to plein air, I want to really focus on bettering my portrait skills.

Dave was so much fun to paint.

9x12 oil on panel (click image for larger view)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How To Traumatize Your Cat

My daughter has a purple unicorn marionette.
It got terribly tangled.  The task of untangling it fell on me, by default.

Untangling it took over an hour.

When I was finished, I played with it  near the cat, who is sitting next to me on the couch.  At first, she was curious.  Then, she realized THIS THING IS ALIVE! and freaked out- screaming and hissing!

My cat does not think it is funny but I do.

Here is the scary cat-terrorizing unicorn.  Kitty hissed three times during the shooting of this photo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Plein Air 37 & 38 & Retirement Day

Today I took a vacation day and went on a painting workshop with Danielle Hatherley again.  One of her students got permission for us to paint in the health club of her building, 36 stories up.  It was an awesome building with an incredible 360 degree view right on the East River.

I finished 2 paintings, both are 9x12 oil on panel:

The second is a Leftover Paint Painting... just a quick something to use up the extra paint from the first painting.

The view was wonderful!


Today also marks Retirement Day of my Painting BFF- so I am glad it got to go on such a nice outing.

My fabulous palette knife, an old Lowell-Cornell, model number long obscured by layers of paint. I have been painting with this knife for the last 14 years. In fact, I can't paint without it. It's comfortable and has character, and it is well-made.

Knives like this are hard to find these days- the reason it is so good is because the blade and handle are all one piece of metal.  They just don't make them like they used to.

Because there are cracks in the paint which covers the blade, and because my friend on Wet Canvas recently had her much-beloved palette knife break, I'm a little nervous.  So I used some birthday money to finally invest in a Holbein Knife. 

There are no better knives than Holbein knives.  With the exception of something tragic and unforeseen, I will never have to replace this new knife for as long as I live.  It is tempered Japanese steel, all one piece.  It is beautiful. lightweight, and wonderfully flexible.  I will miss my old knife, but I know I'll love the new one just as much!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dave (Study)

This is a pastel study of Dave, my partner in this year's portrait swap.  I'll move on to the oil painting this week.

9x12 pastel on Colorfix

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween this year was a great time.  It was the return of Bumble-Rat and Ladybug Rat.  The cool thing about having white rats is you can paint them with airbrush markers.

I carried Ali around for Trick or Treating.  People gave them chocolate and their very favorite treat, Swedish Fish.

Daya also had a great time.  She was Cinderella this year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twilight (after Bouguereau)- Finally Finished!

After seven months this painting is finally done!
I started in March and finished the underpainting in July.
It needs to be scanned instead of photographed but it is too wet right now.

I am not doing anymore grisaille/glazing for the foreseeable future; this is not how i enjoy working.

View progress shots here.

10x20 oil on canvas

Another photo with different light:


I bought the cutest little gourds at the store the other day so I could paint them. For the past few days I have been wanting to paint a gourd with my Maimeri Italian Earth paints... so as a reward to myself for finally finishing Twilight, and also for the Feat of Extreme Discipline for not starting another painting until Twilight was finished, I painted a little gourd.

The Italian Earth paints are fascinating... they are actual earth pigments from different regions in Italy. They are low chroma and transparent, and although I find I can't push them the way I can with other pigments, I still love them. especially the greens.

I do think I'll do better with them when they aren't the only colors in the palette, but as accents to a more well-rounded selection. I like the earthiness and somewhat grittiness of them, and also like thinking of what the old masters did with such limited materials.

8x10 oil on canvas panel, an hour and a half.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plein Air 35 and 36

I took a plein air workshop today with the wonderful Danielle Hatherley.  Since Daya is usually with me when I am not at work, it's rare to have a child-free full day of painting outdoors.  I have been wanting to take a workshop for a while and this was a great experience, something I'll definitely do again. It was great to spend lots of time on each painting.

We painted at the Boat basin in Riverside Park. Palette: Alizarin, Cadmium Red Light, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Maganese Blue, French Ultramarine, and white.

Both are 9x12 oil on panel

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Plein Air 33 and 34

Since I had to go to Daya's school this morning, I just took the whole day off to make the already-long weekend extra long.

Of course I went out painting.  I have been having trouble getting into the painting zone lately, and I had trouble today even though I was excited to be out.  These two are not really great paintings... but I read the other day on Wet Canvas that even some professional plein air painters admit a good percentage of the work they do in the field isn't great.  Plein air painting sure is hard.

I used the palette I'll be using for my upcoming plein air workshop on the 21st:  Alizarin crimson, Cadmium red light, Indian yellow, Cadmium yellow light, French Ultramarine, and Maganese Blue.  Oh, and white.  I am having trouble mixing my darkest values with this palette- they all come out looking like really dark purple or some sort of indefinable brown.

My setup for the first painting:

#33, 8x10 oil on panel  ( I really have trouble with pine trees) one hour

For the second painting, I found a tree that was literally growing out of a huge rock.  I thought I had a good start with this one but am not quite sure what happened.

6x8 oil on panel one hour, maybe I spent too long on it.  Oh well, next time.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Plein Air 32

We spent the day in Central Park and had a wonderful time. I did a little painting while Daya played in the grass.

For today's painting I used 2 new colors- Indian Yellow and Maganese blue. I like them very, very much but also think the addition of cadmium yellow would have made more variations in the greens.  I was really trying to go for masses and impression over details.

Alizarin crimson, Indian yellow, Maganese blue, French Ultramarine, and Titanium white.

6x8 oil on panel

Daya got her face painted:

Retro or Antique?

I've been goofing off with oil paint this week... .  Here is a copied image from 1992...anyone out there recognize it?
Next week I'll get back to serious study (maybe ;) ) and plein air.

8x10 oil on panel

Note: I am sure the original source image is still under copyright by Sierra Online.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

WN Titanium White

I can't believe I haven't painted in three weeks! (I don't count last weekend... it wasn't oil paint! :) )

I am a little rusty...

This is another in the Paint Tube series... WN Titanium White
6x8 oil on panel, maybe 35 minutes or so.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Portraits from Ratfest

I use oil pastels exactly once a year- at Ratfest to do commissioned portraits. This year I did 5 portraits. It makes me so happy to make other people happy with my artwork.

All are 9x12 on archival vellum.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meet the Oily Rats!

Ratfest was this weekend. I will post pictures later.

Two Siamese rat girls came home with me! I am SO EXCITED to have rats again, I really missed having them around these past 5 years.

Of course I named them after oil paint.

Quinacridone (Quin) is a blue point Siamese and Alizarin (Ali) is a seal point.

They are friendly and curious, and Daya LOVES them. My cat is jealous of them but she has always tolerated rats before and I have no reason to worry about it this time either.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Williamsburg Cadmium Red light

Another one today!

6x8 oil on panel
40 minutes

Vasari Pthalo Turquoise

While i was waiting to pick Daya up from school I did a little painting.
Vasari Pthalo Turquoise
6x8 oil on panel
45 minutes


Daya started kindergarten today! She is there right now. It is a half day, so I have to pick her up in a couple of hours. She has been so excited, I have been freaking out. They grow up so fast, it's both sad and exciting.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Old Holland Violet Grey

I bought this tube of paint today with a 40% off coupon. Isn't it pretty? :)

6x8 oil on panel
1/2 hour

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Plein Air 31

I am so glad it is September. PRT was wonderfully uneventful this year, I am very glad about that. Now i can look forward to the weather changing and the days getting shorter.

School starts this Wednesday. I am really nervous. The school is not great at communicating, and i finally got the registration confirmation with this schedule... making me wish more than ever that I had other schooling options.

Scary. This from a SCHOOL.

Today I went with my friend to Central Park. It was a lovely day. Everyone is out of the city on account of Labor Day. I did one little painting. I have painted often enough in Central Park now that when I walk around I recognize my previous painting spots! I fondly passed by three of them today.

6x8 oil on panel, half hour

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Willow 4 (PRT)

Still painting the willow tree...
9x12 oil on panel, 3 hours

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Willow 3 (PRT)

I am very pleased with tonight's painting. I learned a lot- very specifically about thin application of paint while working alla prima. This is something I have been really struggling with, especially working small-scale en plein air.

The palette is a combination I discovered while experimenting back in college. It makes nice subtle tones and I enjoy working with it occasionally: Venetian (or Indian/any earth) red, naples yellow, and cerulean blue. (with mars black and titanium white)

6x8 oil on panel, an hour and a half

Monday, August 23, 2010

Willow 2 (PRT)

Another image of the willow. I actually did an acrylic painting tonight for the first time in 10 years!

9x12 acrylic on panel 2 hours

Willow 1 (PRT)

Here is another practice painting.
I like it and don't like it all at the same time.

The original image is one I took of a willow tree in Brooklyn. I am thinking I might do a little series on this image just to play around and see what happens.

8x10 oil on panel, hour and a half, split comp palette yellow green, red, and violet.

While I was painting this I listened to a Wayne Dyer lecture on living an inspired life. My subscription to the Hay House Radio archives auto-renewed, and as a free gift I got the 6 CD set in the mail... unexpected. What a nice surprise. (And I do love Wayne Dyer)

Towards the end of the 6th CD he spoke about prayer and specifically St Francis. The "Make me an instrument of thy peace" prayer. For the first time I really get how that prayer works... it has to do with aligning yourself in remembrance to Source and attracting that source energy because God can only be what God is and God is not lack. Wayne said it better than I am writing it, but I really got it. "Peace" can be substituted with anything. Anyhow while I was painting something really clicked and I had a wonderful moment of clarity. I even had to stop painting for a moment because I had such an energy surge.

It is something i will always remember and associate with this particular painting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Alla Prima Trees (PRT)

I'm still practicing alla prima landscapes. Here is a little painting that took one hour and 20 minutes, from one of my Central Park photos.

It was supposed to be a split complementary palette of violet, yellow orange and yellow green, but I chose incorrect pigments for both yellow orange and yellow green. As a result my color mixing was completely thrown off and I had to add a blue pigment in... my new Vasari Video Blue.

Lesson learned: inaccurate color selection for split complementary palettes makes a HUGE difference.

I like last night's painting better than this one.

6x8 oil on panel

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spring in Central Park (PRT)

I am supplementing my plein air work with some study and practice at home.
Here is a little painting from a photo I took on a plein air trip last spring in Central Park.

9x12 oil on panel, took an hour and a half