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Artist Statement

At this moment, I am compelled to paint people, to understand each person’s story. I take the story, wrapping it around me and my subject before I paint that defining moment. The story’s events before and after the moment guide my hand. Color, texture, and motion flows from the story. Texture supports the underpainting, while color and motion generates movement of line. That motion of line creates an emotion that pulls me through the painting. I am like a blind person, feeling the story around the edges until it’s my story, too.

Exhibitions and Festivals

July 2013 – ARTSplash 2013 (Group Show), ArtWorks, Edmonds, WA
Apr. 2013 – Threads of Meditation (Group Exhibit), Corridor Gallery, Seattle, WA
Nov. – Dec. 2012 – Eastside Association of Fine Arts (EAFA) 37th Annual Open Exhibition (Group Exhibit), Seattle, WA
July 2012 – ARTSplash, ArtistsConnect/ArtWorks, Edmonds, WA
Mar.-June 2012 – View from the EDGE 2012 (Group Exhibit), Edmonds Conference Center, Edmonds, WA
March 2012 – Annual Miniature and Small Paintings Show (Group Exhibit), Gallery North, Edmonds, WA
Dec. 2011 – New Instructor Art Show (Group Exhibit), Schack Art Center, Everett, WA
July 2011 – Plein Aire (Group Exhibit), Gallery North, Edmonds, WA
Dec. 2010 – Red Door Gallery Winter Art Show (Group Exhibit), Everett, WA
Oct. 2010 – Arts of the Terrace 2010 Juried Art Show (Group Exhibit), Mountlake Terrace, WA
Aug. 2010 – Fresh Paint Art Festival, Everett, WA
July 2010 – Mukilteo Waterfront Art Festival, Mukilteo, WA
July 2009 – Mill Creek Arts Festival, Mill Creek, WA

Professional/Organizational Affiliations

Oct. 2013 – present – Website\EntryThingy Administrator, Edmonds Arts Festival, Edmonds, WA
Sept. 2013 – present – Monthly Feature Writer (Creating Outside the Lines), Muse Arts Zine
Dec. 2013-Feb. 2014 – Exhibition Coordinator, Come Out of the Dark: A Multi-Cultural Exhibition, Edmonds Conference Center, Edmonds, WA
2011-present – Member, ArtistsConnect, Edmonds, WA
2012-2013 – Developer\Admin (with Amy Peacock) for new ArtistsConnect public website and member forum
2011-2012 – Moderator, ArtistsConnect
2010-present – Member, Artist Trust
2009-2010 – Creator and Webmaster, Monroe School District Docent Program website

Scholarships and Honors

Spring 2012 – Scholarship, The EDGE Program for Visual Artists, ArtsNow\Edmonds (WA) Community College

Teaching Experience

Basic Acrylics for Adults, Mill Creek (WA) Parks and Recreation – Fall 2013 and Winter 2014
Art Docent Fair, Schack Art Center (Everett) – Oct. 2012 and 2013
Rapid Portraits using Pastels demo, Daniel Smith (Bellevue) – Oct. 2012
Filtering your Subject with Computer and Paint demo, Daniel Smith (Bellevue) – Sept. 2012
Intro to Acrylic Painting/Exploring Acrylics demo/workshop, Daniel Smith (Seattle/Bellevue) – Sept. 2012 – Dec. 2011
Acrylic Groupon workshop, Daniel Smith (Seattle) – Winter 2011 thru Summer 2012 (multiple monthly classes)
Texturizing Basics and Beyond demo, Daniel Smith – Jan. 2012 (Seattle); Mar. 2012, Oct. 2011, and Apr. 2010 (Bellevue)
Get Altered – Digitally demo/workshop, Daniel Smith – Nov. 2011, July 2011, and Apr. 2011 (Seattle); Sept. 2011 and Sept. 2010 (Bellevue)
Storybox Journaling workshop, Schack Art Center (Everett) – Mar. 2012
Art Docent Fair, Schack Art Center (Everett) – Nov. 2011
Artful Junk workshop, Daniel Smith (Bellevue) – May 2010


Spring 2012 Certification The EDGE Program for Visual Artists, ArtsNow\Edmonds (WA) Community College
1991 M.F.A. (Fiction Writing) The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA

Supporting Education

November 2012 – Drawing Crazily Creative Portraits with Joe MacKechnie
Summer 2012 – 3-Day Expressive Acrylics Painting Intensive Workshop with Jacqui Beck
Spring 2012 – EDGE Program (Professional Development Program), ArtsNow\Edmonds (WA) Community College
Summer 2011 – 3-Day Expressive Acrylics Painting Intensive Workshop with Jacqui Beck
Spring 2011 – Stretching Toward Abstraction Workshop with Jacqui Beck
Fall 2010 – I Am An Artist, Artist Trust workshop
Fall 2010 – Expressive Acrylic & Mixed Media Workshop with Jacqui Beck
1998-2000 – Student of Katherine L. Wright (watercolorist)
1997-1999 – Member, Kirkland Arts Center

Volunteer Experience

2013-2014 – Arts for Children’s Enrichment (ACE) 4-H Mentor
2012 – 2013 – Show Chair, ARTSplash 2013 (Edmonds)
2012 – 2013 – Snohomish County 4-H Creative Arts Volunteer
2012 – Chair, Artists-In-Action, ARTSplash 2012 (Edmonds)
2009-2010 – Art Docent Coordinator, Maltby Elementary School (Monroe School District)


News Latest Posts

Texture as Composition

The great aspect of acrylics is their versatility. Because acrylics are essentially composed of acrylic polymers (think “plastic”), you can add different media to your acrylic paint to create textures not typically found in, say, watercolor or oil.

With texture, there are two options: implied vs. real. Implied texture involves stamping, scraping, “scrubbing”, etc. Here’s an example from one of my Greek heroines:

Sappho in the Moment by Alicia Harvey

Sappho in the Moment
Acrylic, 8″x8″x1.5″








With this study, I applied gold gesso over my canvas prior to painting. So when I was working Sappho’s hair, I took my palette knife and scraped off some of the wet blue paint to reveal the gold gesso underneath, thus creating the texture of her hair. That’s implied texture. This technique does not alter the surface of your canvas.

You can use anything to create implied texture. For example, you can use household items to create a stamp, like an old wine cork or a paper towel tube (used to stamp “open circles” or roll lengthwise for a wider swath of color) or press mesh fabric from those cherry tomato sacks into wet color and lift. If you don’t have a palette knife to scrape with, use an expired credit card. Basically, with implied texture, the sky’s the limit for what you can use as your tools.

Now, let’s talk about real texture. Real texture is texture that actually alters the surface of your canvas. For acrylics, to create this kind of texture can involve “gluing” decorative paper with a soft gel medium or even applying the soft gel medium and stamping or drawing into the still wet gel. The gel will retain your stamping\drawing after it’s dry. (Check out the Golden Paint site for all the different gels, including soft gel.)

Let me focus on a portion of an old painting of mine. The painting is called “Ode to Georgia O.” and is a 5-canvas installation of an iris. (You can click the title link to see the full piece.) For now, I want you to focus on the top-right portion. Here it is:

Ode to Georgia O. - detail







In this example, you can see the raised texture of the Golden tar gel. This gel is clear when dry, so I mixed the wet gel with some acrylic paint and put into into a squeeze bottle before applying the “veins” of the iris. The tar gel retained its shape as it dried and the paint color added even more depth.

Either of these texture techniques can help you define the composition of your painting. I want to show you my latest piece in which the texture told me what I was to paint. This piece is called “9/11: When the Bough Broke”:

9/11: When the Bough Broke










This painting has been percolating in me, well, since that day. My son was 6 months old at the time, and, as I watched on TV (along with the rest of the world) and saw the towers fall, I held him and cried – thinking, “What world have I just brought my son into?” Personally, I think all Americans knew then (as they know now) that our future changed at that moment.

When I began texturing the canvas of what would become this painting, I began by layering one of my favorite decorative papers from Daniel Smith – a Handmade Mexican paper called Amate. What’s great about this paper is not only the texture of it (you have to feel it to understand what I’m saying) but also its ability to tear and separate some of its “slats”. Because this paper is heavy, I used a lot of soft gel medium to glue it to the canvas. When the paper dried, I realized that I had just (subconsciously) composed the Twin Towers falling. This is what I mean when the texture “informs” you and tells you what to paint.

So what shall we do for your assignment this month? I’d like you to go freeform this time.

  • Choose one of the two texture techniques, either implied or real.

If you choose implied:

  1. Lay down a solid layer of color on your paper or canvas. You can use one color or multiple colors. BUT do not think about any particular subject. Just lay down the color fast.
  2. Before the color(s) dry, scratch some lines into it or stamp different shapes, whatever you feel at the moment.
  3. And then – walk away to let it dry. DO NOT look at it for a few days.
  4. Come back to your dried texture and look hard at it. Move the piece clockwise and, at each turn, see which side looks intriguing. Do you see a composition there? (You may need to do some squinting!)
  5. Once you’ve decide the direction of your canvas and what the texture is telling you to paint, go with it. See what happens!

If you choose real:

  1. You’ll need to buy soft gel medium from any local artist supply store. If you are so inclined, and the store has decorative paper, choose one.
  2. Now remember with soft gel, you can glue and/or stamp. Go with the moment and play!
  3. And then – walk away to let it dry. DO NOT look at it for a few days.
  4. Come back to your dried texture and look hard at it. Move the piece clockwise and, at each turn, see which side looks intriguing. Do you see a composition there? (You may need to do some squinting!)
  5. Once you’ve decide the direction of your canvas and what the texture is telling you to paint, go with it. See what happens!

As you can see, with both techniques, Steps 3-5 are the same. The only difference is the implied vs. real texture.


So why not explore the Dark Side?

“Luke, I am your father.” Whoosh-wheeze, whoosh-wheeze…

OK, so it took George Lucas to show the positive and negative sides of the Force to the world. But artists have known about these two sides for a lot longer. So what does positive and negative have to do with our current topic of composition?

Many beginning artists begin by painting the subject in front of them. Well, you gotta start somewhere, right? But what many don’t realize is the beauty and meaning behind what’s in front of the viewer’s face.

One case in point, take a look at that photo I assigned to you in May:

Composition Practice









Part of your May assignment was to cut and manipulate the items in the photo to play with layout, as well as to decide on your vertical or horizontal positioning of those items. I chose a vertical positioning of my canvas and literally marked out what I wasn’t including in my image (notice that I radically cropped the photo before continuing to mark out my deletions):











The X-ed items will be removed from my study, while the spider plant under the metal planter will move to inside the metal planter. Remember, when working with photos, just because the photo has an item in one place does not mean that you have to put it there in your painting.

So let’s look at this photo in terms of positive and negative. All the flowers and plants are the positive space – these are the items that the viewer automatically “sees” when looking at this photograph. The negative space is what is around all those positive features. For me, I focused first on the wall and whatever my colored background may be above and around the plants and flowers. So I painted that negative space first using basically purple and blue tones.

After letting the negative space dry, I then came back in with color to work the shapes of the flowers, container, and turtle for my completed study:











Here’s another example of making negative space work for you. For ARTSplash, I decided to create a series of Greek heroine studies. One of these studies is of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, who is kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld. Here is the first layer of this study, called “Persephone Looking”:











I began the painting by loosely outlining her face and neck with a light blue glaze to simply position her within the frame of the canvas. I then worked the negative space, which is the area beyond and around her hair. (At this point, I have not colored her hair at all.) Since, in her story, Persephone is torn between the light of the above world and the dark of the underworld, I kept the top area colors light and the area around and below her chin dark. Lastly, I did some loose, cursory color layers for her face, neck, and hair.

At this point, I stand back and take a good l-o-n-g look at what I’ve done. In playing with the negative space, I found that the area depicting the underworld (those dark areas) took on the shapes of catacombs and phantoms. As a result, I decided NOT to touch that area on my final layer of color:

Persephone Looking by Alicia Harvey

Persephone Looking
Acrylic, 10″ x 8″ x 3/4″












If you compare the two versions, you can see that, by concentrating on her face and hair, as well as bringing out a stronger color for the light of the above world, it appears that the lower third of her is “fading” back into Hades – which, of course, she does, every six months of the year. If I had not played with the negative space, this study definitely would have been different. Personally, I’m awfully happy that I explored the dark side on this one!

Okay – assignment time! Let’s go back to that flower photograph above. Let me give you a cropped version to work with:















Next steps:

  1. Do you want to crop this image further? (If so, do it!)
  2. Decide what items to keep and what to remove. (Personally, I find that stick-thing in the foreground REALLY irritating.)
  3. Decide what it is the negative space. (Can you say “walls and gravel”?)
  4. Decide on a color for that negative space and paint it first. (Keep it loose now!) Let that layer dry! If you try coming in with the positive space colors now, you’ll just end up mixing the negative and positive colors and, trust me, you will not be happy.
  5. Come back in and paint the positive space items. (Basically, the flowers.)

Sometimes, the dark side can be a good thing. If we don’t know about the dark, how can we know about the light?

Rules (but Really just Guidelines Anyway…)

Last month, we talked about placement of canvas and of the focal image on that canvas. Now, we discuss two important “rules” – one is another means of doing that initial sketch and analyzing what you’ll be painting, while the other addresses the number of objects on the canvas.

The Rule of Thirds is a grid system that can accomplish two means:

  1. It can be used as a grid for transferring your image to the canvas.
  2. It helps you see and understand the focus and flow of your image.

To create the grid, place two vertical and two horizontal lines equally on the canvas to create a 3 squares x 3 squares grid, like this:

Rule of Thirds Grid










Pretty simple. Now let’s place this over our infamous onion line drawing (can’t get enough of that onion!):










If you were using this grid to draw your lines, then you can see how the grid itself helps you to place those initial scratches, one square at a time. This grid system is an age-old tool. In fact, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Artemisia” (in which all the Italians depicted in this German-produced movie actually speak in French), you can see this tool in actual use. A frame, on which evenly placed string creates the grid, is placed in front of the artist’s focal image.

If we review the gridded onion, we can analyze how the lines then “fill up” and express themselves in each individual “square”. The center of the onion is at the center of the grid, but essentially the center spills up and through the top-right, middle-right, and bottom-right squares of the grid, adding a dynamic motion as compared to the relatively “calm” left-side squares. (In fact, if you want to play with abstracts, you can always focus only one of these squares to paint.)

You can also move the grid lines around, like this:










I cropped the original drawing to just the middle-top, center, right-top, and center-right squares of the original sketch. I then applied the Rules of Thirds grid to that cropped image. The center of the onion has now moved to the lower-left square and spills up and through the center and all three right-hand squares – an extremely dynamic image with little to no calming space. See the difference?

Here’s a couple links about the Rule of Thirds:

Now to my favorite rule because I’m an oddball by nature: Rule of Thirds. Short and sweet:

  • Keep the number of objects to an odd number, not an even number.

Why? Humans are naturally symmetrical. We are constantly looking for the two columns in front of the building, the ying to the yang, the peanut butter to the jelly, which means “even number”. Without that “evenness”, the viewer’s eye will continue roving around the painting looking for it. This rule works to keep the viewer looking at your painting for longer than a few minutes.

So for your practice this month, I have another image for you (thank God! Drop the onion already!):

Composition Practice








Now there’s a lot going on in here – that’s the point. So let’s play with the two rules. (If you click on this image, it will take you to my website, where you can access just the image.)

Using this full image and a ruler:

  • Draw your 3×3 square grid.
  • Ask: How do the objects in this image flow from square-to-square?

Select 4 adjacent squares and use that to crop this full image:

  • Looking at this new image, use a ruler and draw a new 3×3 square grid.
  • How has the flow or movement of the objects changed?
  • Is it a better version of the original image?
  • Count the number of objects – is this an odd or even number?
  • If it is an even number, can you “block out” an object to make the number odd? If so, how does the image read now?

Since there’s so much going on with this original image, you can play with this grid as much as you want.

When you get an image that you’re satisfied with, try using the grid to sketch your image. To use the grid:

  1. Draw over your printed image to create the basic lines. You want “just the facts”.
  2. Lightly draw your 3×3 square grid on your paper or canvas.
  3. Use the grid lines to transfer your basic lines of the image to your paper or canvas.
  4. Then go ahead and paint, using the color practice that we’ve done the past few months. If you drew your grid lines lightly and you’re using acrylic paint, you may not need to erase them. (Of course, that depends on whether you are using a transparent or opaque color – remember?)

Next month, I’ll show you want I’ve done with this image.


I’m jumping into Pinterest!

Currently, I have three boards – Art I Like, Gotta Laugh, and Inspiration. During the next few weeks, I’ll be creating more boards, along the line of alternative venues for artists, children’s education, and painting\artistic resources.


April practice: Basic composition forms

For the past few months, we’ve been playing with color – to understand which colors are your “friends” and how many different variations you can make with them. Now we move on to the other “c” word – composition. Let’s start simple.

The best description I’ve found about basic composition came from Mary Todd Beam in Celebrate your Creative Self. These basic simple forms relate to how you position your canvas (either vertical or horizontal) and then how you position your focal image onto that. Are you with me? Before I continue, let me introduce you to some terms that I’ll be using:

  • Horizon line = It is exactly what it says – a line drawn horizontally across your canvas. When we look at a sunrise, the sun is literally at the horizon, so this is where our eye hits. But where we place that horizon line against a vertically- or horizontally-placed canvas affects how the viewer reacts to your subject.
  • Halfway horizontal mark = an imaginary line that equally cuts the canvas in half horizontally
  • Halfway vertical mark = an imaginary line that equally cuts the canvas in half vertically

Basic compositional examples:

Turn your canvas so that the longest side is vertical. This works well with 9″x12″, 11″x14″, etc., canvases. If you place the “horizon line” above the halfway horizontal mark of your canvas, the viewer thinks high and tall. Look at a tree, a lighthouse, Stonehenge, what do you think? You think not only high, but also sturdy, rising, solid. Your eye literally is reaching toward the focal point of the image. In this example, the setting sun focuses our attention and then our eye draws down to the reflection in the water that seemingly leads toward us. Afterward, our eyes reach back across the expanse of water directly toward the sun in the distance.









Keep your canvas so that the longest side is still vertical. But this time, place the “horizon line” below the halfway horizontal mark of your canvas. The focal image is now weighted firmly to the bottom of the canvas. Think of throwing a feather up in the air, what does it do? It floats down (thanks to good ole’ gravity) until it comes to rest against the ground. Rather than soaring upward (like a tree) in the last image, this image brings the viewer down to rest. The sun appears closer to us now with the sky looming high overhead. The sun appears small compared to the vast height of the sky.









Overall, the vertical placement of your canvas implies specific, targeted direction because the focal point has only that vertical straight line of the canvas to move around in. The focal point can really only move up or down; there’s very little side-by-side movement.

Now let’s turn our canvas so that the longest side is horizontal and play with that horizon line.

Put that “horizon line” above the midway point of your horizontal canvas. The focal point is still high but now it has a lot of horizontal “breathing” space on either side. Think about the ocean or the desert. The sun here appears tiny compared to the “vastness” of the ocean.






Lastly, put the “horizon line” below the midway point of your horizontal canvas. The focal point is low but there’s so much more sky above it, to the point that the viewer almost seems to be looking down on it.






You might have heard from other artists not to place any focal point directly in the middle of the canvas. That would be here exactly where the halfway horizontal and halfway vertical points intersect. If you can imagine our sun right there with an equal amount of sky and water, what do you get? Boring! Snooze-a-roni!

The viewer has no “pull” from the focal image to tell him\her how to “read” the painting.







That said, there’s probably something that you-all noticed when I painted the above simple images. While the focal point (sun) moved above or below the halfway horizontal mark of the canvas, I kept the sun situated exactly at the halfway vertical mark of the canvas. Now I wonder what would happen if I start moving the focal point either right or left of that halfway vertical mark in each?

And that’s your art play for this month! You will use these same four horizon line plays that I used:

  • vertical canvas – high focal point
  • vertical canvas – low focal point
  • horizontal canvas – high focal point
  • horizontal canvas – low focal point

BUT, for each one, imagine a halfway vertical mark, and paint two separate practices with the image either to the right or left of that halfway vertical mark. By the end, you should have the following 8 practice studies done:

  1. vertical canvas – high focal point – to the right
  2. vertical canvas – high focal point – to the left
  3. vertical canvas – low focal point – to the right
  4. vertical canvas – low focal point – to the left
  5. horizontal canvas – high focal point – to the right
  6. horizontal canvas – high focal point – to the left
  7. horizontal canvas – low focal point – to the right
  8. horizontal canvas – low focal point – to the left

While you’re at it, don’t forget your color practice. Pick two colors, either truly cool or warm. I used Pthalo Blue and Cadmium Red Medium (blue for the water; red for the sun; and a combo of each for the sky). Also, keep your focal image simple. You can do the implied sunrise that I used or just a simple block on an implied table. If you keep your image simple, then you’ll concentrate less on the image detail and more on the compositional implications.

February: Dark Sheep or Light Sheep?

Last month, we talked about cool and warm colors and how the placement of these colors on a canvas can “trick the eye” to bring areas toward or away from the viewer. By the way, artist Carol A. McIntyre just completed a blog entry about cool and warm colors. Here’s what she says in her blog.

This month, we’re tackling two subjects, how to make a color darker or lighter AND do you begin laying dark colors or light colors first?

Let’s tackle the “how to make the color darker or lighter”. Now when we did our monochromatic study in December, I had you using Titanium White. Typically, when we think lighter or darker, we think about adding white for lightness or black for darkness. But that really is making it overly simple. You may have noticed that when I used Titanium White with my Cadmium Red Hue that it actually made my warm red very cool. White cools down colors, plain and simple, while black muddies them. Okay, why is that?

Well, it comes from the fact that white and black really do contain other colors that can interfere with the purity and vibrancy of the color that you’re using. Titanium White will actually mute the vibrancy of a color. And if that’s what you want to achieve in a painting – okay. But if you use it throughout all colors in a painting, then areas of your painting may come out looking a bit flat – as you could see from my monochromatic where I’ve mixed the Cadmium Red Hue with the Titanium White to create the darker bubblegum pink (color #3 on my recipe card):

Monochromatic Study by Alicia Harvey

Titanium White is also opaque. So if you mix this white with a transparent color, it will turn your transparent color into an opaque color – thus you lose the transparency that maybe you actually want to keep. So what about black? Well, black muddies a color because its intensity can overwhelm the color you’re mixing it into. Also, depending on the black you use, it can have other colors – like blue – which can increase the muddiness if it’s added to a secondary color that does not include blue.

So how can you lighten or darken and still keep vibrancy? That’s where knowing your basic secondary color mixing comes in handy. For example, you know that yellow and blue make green. Well, to lighten a green, try mixing the lighter color (i.e. yellow) into the green (instead of white). Likewise, to darken that green – you got it, try mixing in the darker color (i.e. blue). If the green that you have was created by you actually combining a yellow and a blue paint from your palette, then mixing more of one color than the other will accomplish the light or dark version. If you have a color that’s already “premixed” (like Sap Green), then you’ll need to experiment a little. Again, knowing if that green is a warm or cool version will help. For example, let’s say you have a cool green and want to keep it cool when you lighten it – then go with a cool yellow.

(Just for giggles, I did an online search on what colors are in Sap Green. The Golden Paints website said: “This was achieved by blending Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Nickel Azo Yellow, Phthalo Green Yellow Shade and adding a tiny amount of Carbon Black to get a deep yellow green.” Aha – so if you have Golden Paints Sap Green, try to lighten with Nickel Azo Yellow; if you want to darken, try the Phthalo Green Yellow Shade. Get it?)

Yes, all of this color mixing takes a little thought in the beginning. But after doing it a while – and refining your color palette in the process – it will become second nature to you. If you have a lot of colors and are feeling overwhelmed, just concentrate on three primary colors, all cool or all warm, and work just with them. Marion Boddy-Evans, of About.com Painting, has a wonderful article on creating such a “limited palette”. Again, when you’re starting out, baby steps are a good thing.

So – “to begin light or not to begin light. That is the question. ‘Tis nobler to begin dark…” Ya, leave it to Shakespeare to give voice to the complicated. But actually it’s not as complicated as you think. It depends on your preference and the outcome. How about that for a wishy-washy answer. Truth is, you do get a very different outcome when you begin with light colors or dark colors.

Jacob Taxis on About.com Painting posted a video in which he paints from dark colors to light colors. His overall final image is dark or moody or shadowy – or however you want to phrase it – with very clearly defined color areas. His method of dark-to-light is a classical way of painting. You end by putting in the highlights.

But what do you do when you want your painting to be – and feel – lighter? Aha – that’s where some of the impressionists turned everything on its ear. (No pun intended to Van Gogh.) They began with the lights and ended with the darks. So, in classical terms, you’re actually working backwards. I used this method in my self-portrait, so you can look at my video version. Now keep in mind while watching my video: every new image of my portrait was a stopping point where I let the paint dry completely. Allowing the paint to dry maintained the clean colors without any “muddying” or accidental “lightening” of colors due to inadvertent mixing on the canvas.

So your assignment for this month is back to the onion, but this will be the last time:

  1. Take our good old onion photo.
  2. Paint two studies of it:
  • One study dark-to-light: Paint the darks and lights in areas the way Jacob Taxis does in his video.
  • One study light-to-dark: First, block out the entire onion what would become your highlight color, and then work backwards from there toward the dark end.

After completing these two studies, you should know which version (dark-to-light or light-to-dark) gives you the most satisfaction. When you know, just paint the colors on your future canvases in that order.

Now that we are more comfortable with color and how you get it on the canvas, next month we’ll tackle composition – in other words, how viewers “read” your painting.

January: Pure Color Practice

Last month’s lesson was about ignoring details and looking at an object in “pieces”. This is how I broke down my process to create a monochromatic painting. First, I took the black-and-white image and outlined the areas to make it easier to create my line drawing:

Then, I created the line drawing:

Since I wanted to use an old dark grey matte board for this practice (why waste a canvas?), I transferred the line drawing (using the tracing paper) onto the matte board, and then retraced the hard-to-see pencil lines with chalk. Take note that I did not exactly duplicate the lines because some were way too narrow.

Now I examined how many tints of my color I will need by numbering the areas on my original photo:

I love my Daniel Smith Cadmium Hue colors – and my “baby eyes” are thoroughly enjoying the reds and blues of the world! – so I chose Cadmium Red Medium Hue and Titanium White. As usual, when doing a monochromatic painting, I created my “recipe card”. In this case, I counted 6 tints – #1 being Cadmium Red Medium alone, while #6 is mostly Titanium White with just a little dot of Cadmium Red Medium. To create the recipe, I began with #1 (all Cadmium Red Hue), and using my paint tube to create dots, I replaced red dots with white dots as I moved toward #6 (mostly Titanium White with little dot of red). Using the card helps me to replicate the color tint if I run out of that mixture on my palette.

Here is my completed monochromatic painting with my recipe card:

Because I added Titanium White to achieve the tints, the overall “feeling” of this piece is cool. Generally, when you add Titanium White to a color, it cools that color. (We’ll be talking about how to “warm up” and “cool down” colors next month.) BTW, if you’re wondering how I darkened those last two colors – well, you have to wait until next month.

Once I explored the image with different tints of one color, I’m ready to explore with different pure colors, no mixing. Last November, I presented a project for the Art Docent Fair at the Schack Art Center. The project talked about warm and cool colors and how their placement provides the impression of movement either toward or away from the viewer. Generally, warm colors are vibrant and appear to move toward the viewer, while cool colors are calming and appear to drift away from the viewer. That’s why distant mountains in a landscape tend to be painted in purple or blue.

The following warm colors, especially if placed next to cool colors, stand out: red, orange, yellow, possibly light green.
The cool colors then are: purple, blue, dark green.
You can read up on this concept in this Tigercolor article.

Of course, keep in mind, that each color in an art supply store tends to have a cool version and a warm version. For example, Quinacridone Red is a cool red, while Cadmium Red is a warm red. Which means – when you select your warm color make sure it is both a warm color (i.e. red) and a warm version of that color (i.e. Cadmium Red).

For my colorful onion, I chose the following colors: Indanthrone Blue (my darkest color), Carbazole Violet, Sap Green, Cadmium Red Medium Hue, Cadmium Orange Hue, and Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue (my lightest color). Again, my goal here was to create pure color (no tints):

Now, you may be saying that all of this looks like the Paint-By-Number kits. Well, yeah – but that’s okay. The more you understand the colors that you are using, the more you will use them in the right situation\combination – and ultimately the happier you will be with your outcome. The dark purple and dark green move to the background here, where they should be. The red, orange, and yellow bring out the onion, which is the focal point. There are also two other onions – one below and one to the right of my focal onion. The onion below is depicted completely separate from my focal onion, but the onion to the right “bleeds into” my focal onion, added a dynamic quality to the piece. The yellow highlights of my focal onion bring out a certain roundness to it, while the other side is darker – moving back – and thus becomes red, green, and purple. Notice that the bottom onion is red and orange. Since the direct light is not hitting that onion, the highlight for it is not yellow but the next brightest color, which is orange. It is this kind of analysis that moves you from just slapping a color onto the page toward consciously exploring how all the colors relate to each other.

So, your practice for January is to create a pure color practice of your onion, keeping warm and cool colors in mind. How do you know if a color is warm or cool? Just remember that warm colors tend toward yellow or orange, while cool colors tend toward blue. What do you do if you can’t figure it out one way or the other? Go online and google or bing it. Simply type “Is [color in question] a warm or cool color?” With everything out there in the web, I’m sure you’ll find the answer.


December 2012: Color-Blocked Onion

Beginning this month, I’m creating assignments in my monthly newsletter.

Practice Onion






















I’ve been talking a lot about finding comfort in your artwork. Now let’s propose pushing some boundaries this month. Let’s pretend to be blind to details. Well, that might be hard for some, so let me do that for you. Using my PhotoShop Elements software, I took a photo that I took from a local Farmer’s Market of an onion and used the Cutout filter twice to break the onion into areas. I also stripped the onion of color so that you can assign whatever colors you want to this onion.
Here’s your assignment for this month. First, you are not thinking in details but in color blocks. (As you can see, even the “strings” of the onion have been converted into these abstract blocks.) Second, if it is easier to use transfer paper to transfer your lines to your canvas, then do so. To create line art:

  1. Place your canvas/paper in front of you.
  2. Place transfer/carbon paper with the black side “kissing” the canvas/paper.
  3. Place your printed image (on regular printer paper) on top of transfer/carbon paper.
  4. Using a pencil, draw the lines of the areas. Do this light enough so that you create a mark on the canvas without creating a hard mark. These lines are for guidance only. Too hard of a line might show through the paint.

Here’s your assignment:

Use the onion and play with color blocks. Make two different paintings by choosing two color methods from the following list:

  • Monochrome practice (one color but with differing amounts of titanium white): Create a separate “ingredient guide”. On a separate piece of paper, break your primary color and titanium white into dots (works well if using tubes). In other words, 4 dots primary + 0 dots white = darkest color, while 1 dot primary + 3 dots white = lightest color.
  • Analogous practice (colors that are beside each other on your color wheel): To decide where to place these colors, remember that lighter colors are highlights, while darker colors are shadows.
  • Warm/Cool color practice: Choose two warm colors and two cool colors. Remember that warm and cool is based on yellowish vs blue-ish – you can have a cool red and a warm red. Make sure you have purely warm and purely cool colors. The trick to this practice is where you place the colors. For example, if warm color is surrounded by a cool color, the warm color “floats” toward the viewer, while the cool color moves away from the viewer.


“The Artist Within” on exhibit in Nov/Dec

My painting – “The Artist Within” – has been accepted to the Eastside Association of Fine Arts (EAFA) 37th Annual Open Juried Exhibition. The exhibition is on display from Mon., Nov. 5, 2012 thru Fri., Jan 4, 2013.

Artist reception is on Sat., Nov. 17 from 2-4pm. (I’m taking a workshop in Edmonds that day but will try to be at the reception for the last hour.)

Location:  Seattle Design Center/Plaza Building EAFA Gallery, 5701 Sixth Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98108

You can check out the painting in my Portraits gallery.

Docent Art Fair at Schack Art Center



Annual Art Docent Fair

I’ll be presenting a workshop/project on the art of Mark Rothko at the Annual Art Docent Fair.

Schack Art Center (2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett, WA)
Saturday, October 20
8:45 am to noon

If you or someone you know is an art docent in the public school system, this fair is definitely worth it! Pre-registration required: $20/person or $100/school. For more information, contact, Nancy Bell at 425-259-5050 x23. www.schack.org

Keeping It Simple

After I completed the rather complex “The Artist Within” in Jacqui Beck’s workshop, I decided to do a simple painting that used just two or so colors. The canvas was originally a year-old painting that I had done of butterflies – a painting that I really didn’t like and knew just wasn’t coming together. It had a great deal of acrylic texture from fiber paste, tar gel, and decorative papers. I liked the upper left and upper right areas with their decorative paper design, so I decided to keep those areas and black gesso over the butterflies down the middle of the painting. As Jacqui talked about abstraction, I looked at this canvas and “saw” a nude within the black gesso.



What Do We REALLY Need – August 2012 newsletter

[To see the complete newsletter, click here.]

One month ago, my son had his eyes on a Playmobile Egyptian Pyramid that cost $109. Okay, this is JULY – not DECEMBER! I told him bluntly, if he wanted it, he had to work for it because his father and I were not going to buy it for him. So he weeded our front yard “somewhat” continuously for three weeks to earn money. (Years ago, we created an English Cottage garden in our front yard. Well, I’ve come to realize, the reason the British have such gardens is that they have servants who continually weed them.) So finally my son decided that the pyramid really wasn’t what he needed. He compared the pyramid with a lower cost Playmobile Forest Exploration Treehouse and realized that he didn’t get very much with that pyramid. In fact, he could take all his earned money and buy a bunch of smaller items. Lightbulb!

In July, I took an intense 3-day workshop with Jacqui Beck. This workshop was the third series that I’ve taken from her. With each workshop, I’m astonished by how Jacqui creates an environment in which each student feels nurtured and cradled – and, as a result, each one extends herself beyond what they originally wanted from the workshop. (This environment is what I strive to create in the workshops that I teach.) By extending myself this time, I came to understand what my artwork really needs.

One of my pieces that I brought to the workshop is called “The Artist Within”.

The Artist Within - photograph and completed painting









As you can see in the original photo on the left, the flower woman is wearing a white turtleneck. So as I painted the woman first, I included the turtleneck. However, when I began painting the flowers, which were a joint focal point along with her face, they kept “disappearing” from the composition. After talking with Jacqui, we decided to tone down the white with some quinacridone sienna – but that didn’t work, either. Finally, Jacqui said to me, “You know, just because the photograph reads ‘turtleneck’, the canvas doesn’t need it.” After I gessoed out the turtleneck and replaced it with her bare neck – lightbulb! The flowers are now being offered to the viewer and the woman’s intensely focused face illuminates the painting.

Here’s another example from a recent Intro to Acrylic Painting workshop that I taught at the Daniel Smith store in Seattle. One of my students was a beautiful Asian woman who taught art to teenagers. During our first project, she sat very quietly and painted with her brush. She told me that when she taught her students, she insisted, when they paint with their brushes, that they be quiet and still for 20 minutes – which is a very sumi-e kind of philosophy. After all, sumi-e was developed as a means of meditation as well as art.

For the second project, she wanted to paint the poppies in her garden. So I instructed her to paint the background with her brush, which she did very quietly. When she was ready to paint her poppies, though, I told her that she could not paint them with a brush. Instead, I gave her a nitrile glove and told her to paint with her fingers. The moment she touched the canvas with her gloved fingers, she began jumping up and down, laughing, so happy with what she was creating. The outward flow of joy (as compared to her silent meditation) was infectious because my other student and I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing, too. As a result, her painting was gorgeous and free in its composition and color.

Did she need to paint with a brush? For her meditation, yes, it served a purpose. But when she painted with her fingers, she unleashed a part of her bliss that she might not have found with her brush.

So your challenge this month is to think about what you and your artwork really NEED:

  • Do you need to sort through your paint colors and decide which ones you can’t live without? The ones that you keep going back to over and over again?
  • Are you happy with the subjects you paint? If not, why are you still painting them? Because you think that’s what “the market” wants? But what do you really need your subjects to say to you?
  • Is painting with a brush problematic for you? What would happen if you put on a pair of nitrile gloves and paint with your fingers? Or a palette knife? Or an old credit card? Or a sponge?

The point is to get those “should wants” outta your head and get down to the need of your artist soul. There is more than technique to art.

Finding What You Need Through Loss

Artist Janet Echelman found what she really needed when she lost her paints. Watch how she discovered the process of creating her Giant Billowing Sculptures on TEDTalks.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

I’ve talked about Marion Boddy-Evans and her Painting section on About.com. In one of her recent newsletters, she gathered together some Art Jokes. My top 3 “You Must Be An Artist If…” favorites are:

  • You like to get plastered and paint the town red.
  • You know that art does not match your sofa.
  • You long to be alone with your thoughts while others are lonely without much thought.


A Tip from Fiber Artist, Mary Peterson

The word that comes to mind first and foremost, surprisingly, is not a thing or a place. The word is “permission”.
Permission to:

  • create for the sake of creating.
  • develop my artistic bent with no time table or graph plotting my progress.
  • create from the heart however the Spirit leads!
  • make a mess in my studio/spare bedroom.
  • make mistakes and to play at my art.

Ideally all this permission would be stamped in permanent ink on a big yellow slip that I could pull out and show myself when I feel guilty for spending time creating. It would remind me that I should not waste my artistic talent, and that it is a gift that should be enjoyed as intended by the Giver.

Intro to Acrylic Painting Workshops

I’m offering this workshop at both Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials stores. Here’s the skinny:

Bellevue demo/workshop
Free Demo, Sun., 7/29 (already done)
Workshop, Sun., Sun., 8/12, from 11:30 am – 4:30 pm, $75

Register by calling the Bellevue store at: (425) 643-1781

Seattle demo/workshop
Free Demo, Sun., 8/5, at Noon and 2 pm
Workshop, Sun., 8/19, from 11 am – 4 pm, $75

Register by calling the Seattle store at: (206) 223-9599

Would love to see you there!


Come join me at ARTSplash!

Last night was our kickoff. Tonight is the Artist Reception at 6 pm. Saturday and Sunday are full steam ahead from 10-5. We’re located at ArtWorks, 200 Dayton Street, Edmonds, WA. For the latest info, on the show, go to the show’s Facebook page.

The Beauties

I’ll be doing “20-for-$20″ Quick Portraits (20 minute sitting for $20) tonight from 6-8 pm at ARTSplash (located at ArtWorks, 201 2nd Ave. S., Edmonds, WA). Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, take a look at Tanya and Ruth:

Quick Portraits







Tanya on the left has the regal appearance inherited from the Russian history of the last Tsars. A charming woman who never misses my craft class.

On the right, Ruth is a lady I strive to be as I grow older. She’s always walking, active, and takes constant interest in the world around her. A buzzing bumblebee of a woman.


Quick Portraits – The Quiet Ones

And now for Betty Jean and Ruth:

Quick Portraits







Betty Jean is on the left. She is a soft-spoken, sweet lady with – as she tells me – a very long and distinct family nose, and, even though I told her that I’m not great with teeth yet, she couldn’t help smiling BIG.

Ruth is on the right. She’s one of the quietest ladies in my craft class, and she’s one of the “rocks” in my class – nothing seems to faze her!

More Quick Portraits!

Thank you to my craft class at Fairwinds – Brittany Park for being my live models! Leading up to ARTSplash, I’ll post some of these example quick portraits. They’ll also be displayed during the show.

Here are my two Helens:

My Two Helens







The Helen on the right is a Southern belle and, as you can see, she has quite the smoldering look but she’s as gentile as can be.

The Helen on the left is a dear lady who admits to having Alzheimer’s. She’s very good about checking dates with me since she is forgetful, but she always shows up for my craft class like clockwork.

Art Stories – July 2012

You can view the full newsletter on my Facebook page. At anytime, you can sign up for my mailing list by clicking the link on the right sidebar of this website, OR subscribing to my Facebook page.

Who says…?

So…society knows what artists are supposed to use, act, feel – right?. You want to paint, they say, you must have “gessoed canvas, expensive brushes, enamel palette…” Maybe back when the French Salon controlled the world, but today, as Cole Porter said, “Anything Goes.”

That said, there are some items I personally think should be part of an acrylic painter’s physical toolbox:

  • a wet palette – I talked about this kind of palette in last month’s newsletter. This palette keeps your acrylic paints at the ready when you feel the urge to paint, and it saves you from wasting paint. If you haven’t received my newsletters before, you can catch up on this tip (and other past tips) on my website.
  • acrylic medium – I use Daniel Smith acrylic medium – matte, which acts as an extender (allows you to spread the pigment over a larger surface area) and can be used like a glue (for lightweight collage pieces).
  • Taklon brushes – Always use synthetic brushes with acrylic. I prefer Daniel Smith’s long-handled White Taklon filbert brushes. The long handle allows me to pull back when I feel that I’m getting too picky and I need to loosen up.
  • No brushes? – Use an old credit card, a sponge, a wood skewer, your fingers. If using your fingers, though, protect yourself with nitrile gloves.
  • Golden Paint GAC 100 – Do you want to paint on an unconventional surface, like MDF board or plywood (i.e. any surface that is not a canvas or panel bought in an art store)? These surfaces contain chemicals which can leech up and alter your acrylic paint over time. Apply GAC 100 on the surface before applying gesso, and you should have no problem.
  • gesso – Gesso used to come only in white. Now artists have different color options from black to gold. Personally, I prefer painting on a surface coated with Daniel Smith Black Gesso. I’ve discovered that my acrylic colors really pop on a black surface. Also, emotionally, I prefer a black surface over white (see my next article for that insight). Keep in mind that different gesso colors will affect your acrylic colors differently.

Now What About Your Emotional Toolbox?

Painting is more than just slapping paint on a surface. There is an emotional component that draws us in. Many artists talk about that point when they’re essentially “in the zone” and suddenly three hours have passed with a feeling of a minute.

At some point, as an artist, each of us needs to think about the art one produces and how it fits into the emotional puzzle piece of one’s life. Here are questions that I’ve had to ask myself to move on as an artist:

  • How Sensitive Are You to Color? – Having a child helps you to realize parts of yourself you haven’t seen before. My son was recently diagnosed with sensory integrationchallenges. Essentially, it involves how well we process and integrate all of our senses – some of us can become easily overwhelmed by certain stimuli. For example, I remember daily lunch in my school cafeteria as simply agony. The noise was so overwhelming that I would literally be shaking by the end of the period. By high school, I learned to “tune out” by reading a book. Concentrating on those words on the page helped to “stabilize” me.In terms of my art, prior to two years ago, I wondered if I was a failure because I struggled so much with drawing on sketch paper – that is, until I started drawing on differently colored paper and painting on black gessoed canvas. Now I realize that white paper and white canvas physically bother me. On a subconscious level, the starkness of the white actually paralyzes me. When I was a fiction writer, I wrote on yellow legal pads – hhhmmmm. Is this a sensory integration issue? Perhaps. Is it going to keep me from creating art? Not on your life!
  • Are Your Paint Colors Your Friends or Fiends? - Whenever we take a beginning workshop, often we are given a color palette to use, which is usually the teacher’s palette. That’s okay if you’ve never tried the medium and have no palette to begin with. But you don’t have to continue using those particular colors forever. We must begin with a set of colors to then decide what we like and dislike. The more you paint, the more you understand how you physically and emotionally react to the colors that you have. If you react in a negative way to a color (i.e. don’t know how to control its use, have problems mixing it with other colors, etc.), then is that color a friend or a fiend? As you don’t hang out with people you dislike, why are you using colors that you don’t resonate with? Because someone told you that you must use that color? (Hmmmmm, so if all your friends jump off a cliff…?) Okay, I may sound like Barney the Dinosaur here, but your paint colors really are your friends – ultimately, you want to hang out with them all the time! Think about that when you pick up a color.
  • What is Your Painting Limit? - I touched on this subject in my May newsletter. Again, it’s human nature to want to finish a project on your first sitting. Most of the time, that’s just not the case. In fact, for me, the longer I spend in front of my piece, the greater likelihood I will pick it to death and thus completely lose the sense of spontaneity I strive for. Physically, I have a herniated disk in my back so there’s no way I can stand in front of a painting longer than 15 minutes before I must stop and do some yoga stretches. So there’s a physical limit for me. But emotionally, I must take a breather to allow myself to process what I’ve just done and to allow what I’ve done to settle. What is your limit?

Quick Portraits at ARTSplash

I am an acrylic painter but I’ve always been attracted to oil pastels. (Afraid to try them though because of my oil paint sensitivity.) So when the opportunity to do quick portraits at ARTSplash in Edmonds arose, I immediately thought about 20-minute pastel drawings. Many thanks to Silas Forster at the Daniel Smith Seattle store, who introduced me to Sennelier oil pastels and velour paper. These pastels are so creamy and completely unscented. The velour paper comes in different colors – my preference is light yellow and appeals to my Taurus touch.

If you’re interested in a portrait, come on down (or up) to Edmonds and see me on the following days:

  • Thursday, July 19 from 6-8 pm
  • Saturday, July 21 from 10 am – noon and 2- 4 pm
  • Sunday, July 22 from noon – 5 pm

By the way, Silas and others will be presenting free weekday demos at the Seattle store. Check out the demo schedule or call the store at (206) 223-9599.

You Think You Have Angst!?

Artists are “supposed” to suffer, to angst out their lives – yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, I can tell you right now, that’s not true. BUT…for those of you who want to see angst, you gotta check out Henri the Cat by Will Braden. He’s got it down to an art!

A Tip from Francine Moo-Young, Mixed Media Artist
My creative process starts before the first thought can become a thought, and while it’s still in transit from hand to brain.

Usually I start by pulling out a piece of leather and continues until there is a large mess of everything from leather to trims. For me, flexibility is key. I can have the most perfect piece mapped out in my head, in a sketch, or in the form of a pattern. But frustration occurs when I try to make an exact copy of that perfectly mapped piece.

I’ve learned to feel the leather and hear what it wants to become. I have to be willing to bend what I want and compromise with what it wants to become.

Gearing up for ARTSplash

ARTSplash 2012 is coming on July 19-22 at Artworks (201 2nd Avenue, Edmonds, WA 98020). My artwork (including my fish series) will be for sale – my area is near the bird house auction room. Keep up-to-date on other artists and activities on either the ARTSplash website or on the Artists-Connect ARTSplash Facebook page.

I also will be offering “20 for 20″ – a 20-minute oil pastel portrait on velour paper for $20. My times during the show for these sittings are:

  • Thursday, July 19 from 6-8pm
  • Saturday, July 21 from 10 am-Noon and again at 2-4 pm
  • Sunday, July 22 from Noon-4 pm

As an example, here is my portrait of my son. (I’ll post other example portraits as the time draws near.)

Example of a Quick Portrait at ARTSplash

Example of a Quick Portrait at ARTSplash

My Facebook page is now a go!

I’ve set up a Facebook page with complete monthly newsletters. Now, each time I send out a newsletter, it will automatically post to my FB page. I’m also attempting to integrate my WordPress posts to appear on my FB page. We’ll see if that happens. Stay tuned!

Please consider “liking” me and sharing my page with your friends!

Aaahhhh – the electronic age expanded!


Art Stories – June 2012 Art Tip

Ahhh…Just Get Wet!

I used to sit down at my drawing table, pick up each paint tube, examine and decide which colors to use, then methodically squeeze what I hoped was the correct amount on my palette. After about 15-20 minutes, I was finally ready to paint. Wow – what a waste of time! When I sit down to paint, I want to PAINT – not prepare to paint.

When I took a workshop from Jacqui Beck, artist and teacher extra-ordinaire, she showed me a different way (other than in the tubes) to keep my acrylics at the ready. It’s a form of wet palette using an Artbin. Artbins come in many shapes and sizes. You can order them online or find them at a local arts and crafts store. (I found one at the Ben Franklin in Redmond, WA.) The one I use is approximately 9″ X 5″ X 1.25″, and allows for the creation of up to 18 compartments with removable slats. Unassembled, it looks like this:

Unassembled Artbin

Unassembled Artbin







When the slats are inserted, the box is ready to be filled with paint.

Assembled Artbin

Assembled Artbin







I have another Artbin that contains my standard colors (Titanium white, blues, greens, browns, etc.). I want to create another box for my full line of Daniel Smith quinacridone colors (9), plus the new line of Daniel Smith cadmium hues (6). With this second box, I remove 2 slats so only 15 squares remain to be filled with paint. I fill each square, about halfway, with color, keeping my color order consist from dark to light. The quinacridone colors fill the 9 squares on the left, while the cadmium colors are included in the 3 top-right and 3 bottom-right squares.

Paint in Artbin

Paint in Artbin







Now the wet part! To keep these colors fresh and wet, first I take about 2-3 paper towels, roll them, and cut this roll so that it fits neatly into the long compartment (where I removed the 2 slats). Next, I take about 3-4 paper towels, fold and cut them so that they will fit neatly in the lid. Finally, I wet and wring out both the towel roll and the towel lid with water. The towels must be damp, but not dripping wet. Return the wet roll to its compartment and the wet towel square to the lid.

Wet towels in Artbin

Wet towels in Artbin







When the lid is closed, the completed wet palette is ready to use at any time.

Closed wet palette

Closed wet palette







Very important note: You must check the towels every other day to make sure they stay damp! To keep them damp, use a spray bottle. At any time, you can discard these towels, and cut/replace them with fresh damp ones.

With these two wet palette boxes, the colors are now set up before me, ready to dip in and paint at any moment!

Ready to work!

Ready to work!



Art Stories – May 2012 Art Tip

Creative Failure…Or Creative Opportunity?

My son used to be such a perfectionist!

If the outcome didn’t match EXACTLY what was in his head, talk about FRUSTRATION. Unfortunately, he got that from me. (Damn, those genes!) But I have quite a few years over him – and thus have learned a few things about dealing with such “mismatches”. (“Sure, Mom” – Did I tell you he’s eleven now?)

If you’ve taken my Intro to Acrylics class, then you’ve heard me harp on about the BIG TWO: 1) Learn when TO STOP, and 2) Stand back from your work to LET IT AND YOU BREATHE.

Wow – when to stop…That’s a biggy for all of us. It’s human tenacity to keep working it to death while saying, “I’m gonna make this right until it kills me!” We do it every day with our relationships and whatever else with which we feel out of control. (Did I tell you that my son’s eleven now?) Anyway – yes, you heard me – it’s a control issue. I hear you saying, “But I’m NOT a control freak!” Yes, you are. I repeat: It’s h-u-m-a-n nature, and we all have a degree of control freak in us. With acrylics, if you keep working wet-on-wet over and over, you don’t get RIGHT, you just get MUD.

But stopping, in its own way, IS control. It is taking a breath and controlling how you are controlling the moment. It’s telling the critic inside our head to stop and just let it be – with the understanding that we will get back to it.

So when do we come back to it? I tell my students to take the artwork. Put it somewhere in plain view. Let it always fall on your eye in passing. Give it a week. By the end of that week, you will know your next step. That’s called perspective. Now I’m not talking about depth relationship and all that art perspective stuff. I’m talking about what my wonderful American Heritage College Dictionary states as:

The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.

This is more than just what is on the canvas. It is how YOU are relating to what is on the canvas. How will you take what is there and rework it in keeping with your own vision? But, like everything else, that vision can – and usually does – change during the process.

And this is the irony – We cannot see that change until we try to communicate the original vision. We see a shape on the canvas that we didn’t see before when our face was slammed up against it. So let’s see what that’s about. Or we realize that a color we really wanted in there is not harmonious in the mix, so we replace it with another that works and thus brings the whole thing together.

Clutching at that original vision in your head may be the thing that holds you back, NOT what is facing you at that moment on that canvas.

Hhhmmmm…sort of like life that is…

For more reading about this topic, take a gander at an article written by Marion Boddy-Evans, called “Learn to Fail Better as an Artist“.

Want to learn to “loosen up” and trust that moment more – The best book suggestion I have is The Creative Edge: Exercises to Celebrate Your Creative Self by Mary Todd Beam. Check it out on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


Upcoming Intro to Acrylics demos and workshops

I’m excited to announce my forthcoming Intro to Acrylics demos and workshops coming up at your local Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials store:

At the Seattle store (4150 First Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98134):


Sat., June 9 at 11 am and 1:45 pm

Sun., Aug. 5 at 11:45 am and 2 pm

WORKSHOPS [register by calling the Seattle store at (206) 223-9599)]:

Sun., June 24 from 11 am – 4 pm

Sun., Aug. 19 from 11 am – 4 pm

Check out the Seattle store blog!


At the Bellevue store (15112 N.E. 24th Street, Bellevue, Washington 98052):


Sun., July 29 at Noon and 2 pm

WORKSHOP [register by calling the Bellevue store at (425) 643-1781)]:

Sun., Aug. 12 from 11:30 am – 4:30 pm

Check out the Bellevue store blog!


Come join me this Thurs., April 19!

 View From the EDGE 2012







 View From the EDGE 2012 is a group show at the Edmonds Conference Center (201 4th Ave. N, Edmonds, WA). Our artist reception is on Thursday, April 19 from 5pm to 8pm. Would love to see you there!

Self-Portrait: A Description of Process

I’m completing a fantastic intensive workshop called EDGE: Professional Development for Visual Artists. My final projects are: 1) a presentation about how I create my art; 2) a completed portfolio; and 3) a group show.

In creating my presentation (in which each artist is allotted no more than 5 minutes!), I pulled together a video that brings my process to life.


For more information about the EDGE program, check out: EDGE for Visual Artists

The Beginning of a New Series

This year sees me stepping into the unknown with the creation of a new painting series about my family as we revolved around my mother. The series is tentatively called “Dark Energy: The Force of One Woman on Her Family”.  These are my notes about dark energy:

Cosmologists don’t really understand dark energy. They know this:

  • 70% of the entire universe is made up of dark energy.
  • Dark energy can’t be seen, only measured by its effect on other things, like galaxies.
  • Dark energy is the reverse of gravity – it doesn’t pull things together, instead dark energy pushes things away.
  • Repulsive is the cosmologist’s word used for dark energy.

 One theory stated that, as dark energy grows stronger, it will strip away all gravity in the universe, creating “The Big Rip”. In the end, nothing will hold together.

 But now cosmologists believe that dark energy is constant – it hasn’t weakened or gotten stronger. Instead of eventually ripping the universe apart, dark energy continues to push galaxies apart until nothing will be seen from our Milky Way Galaxy. Other galaxies will just fade from our view, like a memory forgotten.

 So what will remain if what grounds us is gone from sight?

This painting of my mother is actually the next to the last in the series, but I’ve completed it first.

A Mother

A Mother

Sketchbook Project 2012 Tour Dates

Sketchbook Project 2012 Tour Dates

[For viewing locations, go to http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject2012]

  • Brooklyn, NY – Apr. 14-30
  • Chicago, IL – May 3-5
  • Portland, OR – May 11-13
  • Vancouver, Canada – May 15-16
  • Los Angeles, CA – May 24-26
  • San Francisco – June 2 -23
  • Greater Boston Area – July 6-8
  • Portland, ME – July 11-14
  • Toronto, Canada – July 18-22
  • Philadelphia, PA – Aug. 23-25
  • Atlanta, GA – Aug. 29-Sept. 1
  • Austin, TX – Sept. 8-16


Final Sketchbook Project 2012 page

These are the words that I placed on the pages midway through my sketchbook. The remainder of my sketchbook, I hope, will be completed as it tours the country… [The list of tour dates follows this entry]

I was not able to complete this sketchbook. Over the past couple months, two other paths have diverged into mine. As I write these words, I am a shadow walking behind them.

The first path -

Dorothy is a beautiful, gentle 92-year-old lady who has attended my craft classes at a local retirement community without fail for the past few years. She has a wonderful sense of humor and deeply-felt spirituality.

She is now ending her decades-long battle with cancer.

The second path -

Debbie is a beautiful, gentle 50-something lady who I met back in 2004, a year or so after the death of her only son whom she had raised alone since his birth. She has been a good friend to me and a wonderful aunt to my son.

She has been diagnosed with Stage 3c cancer and will enter radiation/chemotherapy for the next few months before surgery.

I cannot follow Dorothy past the end of her path – although I hope to continue to feel her spirit in everything I see.

I will follow Debbie and pray that her path continues at least as long as Dorothy’s.

This sketchbook is dedicated to them.

I ask you, the reader, to leave an uplifting thought for someone who may be going down their own challenging path. Please write it on one of the following blank pages.

Let your thought be a guiding light. Let the spirit of your love surround and support them.

We never know how our individual path will lead or end – all we can do is walk it.



When we were digging out all the blackberry brambles, we found a buried tire swing. So we found a new tree limb to hang this new find for our son. Swinging on a tire is one of those childhood pleasures. You swing, feeling the wind against your hair, twisting like a leaf. The sun strokes your face, while the birds cheer you on.

 [A description of how I created these sketchbook pages follows the image.]



1) An overall acrylic wash with Cadmium Yellow Light Hue was painted across two-thirds of the area.
2) The trees were created with a combination of Quinacridone Sienna, Duochrome Oceanic, and Cadmiun Red Medium Hue heavy body acrylic paints with additional texturization using archival markers.
3) I created the tire by layering two pieces of cardboard – one was corrugated and the second was wavy. Between these two pieces, I glued a piece of black decorative paper which appeared as the “inner” part of the tire. On top of this “sandwhich”, I glued a piece of rubber cabinet liner (which looks a lot like tire tread). This piece was then painted with

LandfillArt.org Project

LandfillArt.org is a project founded by Ken Marquis. Its purpose is to reclaim rusted hubcaps for use as artist canvases. After contacting Ken and receiving a hubcap from him, I created “Holding the Future”.

My goal for this project was to create a piece with little to no waste. I wanted to create a version of the Native American Dreamcatcher, which traditionally catches bad dreams in its web, allowing good dreams to fall through the hole in the web’s middle. My version is actually the opposite. I have words caught and held in the web, while Grandmother Spider blocks the hole. [A description of how I created this artwork appears below the video link.]


I created the piece as follows:

1) I applied pre-painted paper towels onto the hubcap using Soft Gel acrylic medium.

2) I mixed acrylic ink with Pouring acrylic medium and poured the mixture over the hubcap. I dripped the excess onto a paper palette to dry for a  later step. Lastly, I poured white acrylic ink into the form of a crescent moon.

3) I drilled holes into the rim and applied eyelets (to ensure that yarn is not cut up during step 5).

4) I glued glass crystals on the inner part of the rim.

5) I wove textured yarn into the traditional shape of a dreamcatcher and stiffened the strands with a coating of Soft Gel acrylic medium. To brighten the strands, I added gold iridescent acrylic paint.

6) I took a photo of my two hands joined in the shape of a spider, and then used the photo as a template to cut out the spider from the dried pouring (of step 2).

7) I created a second acrylic skin from a mixture of Soft Gel and Glass Bead acrylic media. When dried, I painted words onto the glassy clear skin, cut out the words, and glued the words to the web strands.

8) Lastly, I applied pearls to the spider shape and added charms/beads to the web strands.


Schack Art Center – Artful Junk Workshop

I’m proud to announce that I am teaching my first workshop at the Schack Art Center (2921 Hoyt Ave. Everett, WA 98201).

Workshop Description:

Don’t run to an art supply store for materials every time you want to create art-just look in your cabinets and recycle bins! You will learn to see “junk” in new ways through stenciling, stamping and collage techniques. With a few basic art supplies and lots of “artful junk”, you will create beautiful paintings. All levels welcome. Supply list provided at registration.

Saturday, January 28, 2-5 pm, $40/members; $45/non-members

To register, go to: http://www.schack.org/classes/artful-junk.


Elf House

Last summer when we began clearing out the blackberry brambles from our woods, my son, Kindred, decided to make a few shelters for the “wee folks” who might be living in that wild area. Using cast-off objects from past home projects, he created houses, a food storage area, an amphitheatre, and a sky tram (from one tree to another). Considering that he’s born and raised in Seattle, he’s such an Anglophile. (Must be his Irish/Scottish/British roots poking through.)

 [A description of how I created these sketchbook pages follows the image.]

Elf House

Elf House

 For this piece, I wanted to focus on the elf house and the tree in which it nestles. My goal was to create an elf house with the same sense of “cast-off building” that my son used. To create the overall body of the tree, I mixed coarse pumice gel with soft acrylic gel and quinacridone sienna, which gave me that wonderfully textured cinnamon brown color. The dark brown areas were formed with a mixture of glass bead gel and burnt umber. When dry, the house was assembled as a collage using wallpaper samples glued with soft acrylic gel. To create a soft background behind the tree, I applied a watercolor wash with watercolor pencils, adding sketch-like strokes for the branches and ferns. As a final touch, acrylic green gold paint was “tapped” on the dark brown areas of the tree to generate moss and create the touches of fallen leaves in front of the house.



Last July 4, I sat sketching on our back balcony, which looks out over the woods. Our then 1-year-old German short-haired pointer, Belle, was jumping around a tree at the beginning edge of the wood path. She refused to come to me. So I sent my 10-year-old son out to see what occupied her so.

“Mom,” he yelled, “she’s pinned a baby bunny, and it’s screaming!”

I yelled at my husband to take Belle into the house, while I ran out to check on the bunny. My son cradled the little one in his two hands. We checked for blood – there was none. Thankfully, Belle’s breed does not kill or intentionally injure; instead, it pins the prey and waits for the human to come.

We gently placed the baby near a pile of tree limbs that we keep especially for the purpose of protecting little creatures like this. A half hour later, we checked – the baby was gone.

Six months later, we know the baby is alive and well and grown. When I take Belle out on leash for her bathroom break in the morning, the bunny that races into the dark woods, lickety-split, is the one that remembers last July.

[A description of how I created these sketchbook pages follows the two images.]

The Flap that Covers the Bunny

The Flap that Covers the Bunny

The Bunny

The Bunny

For these pages, I didn’t want to just draw the bunny. I wanted to depict the surprise that we felt at the moment (because we didn’t even know there were baby bunnies in our yard). So I thought about the lift-the-flap books that my son used to read when he was a toddler.
The first image shows the flaps (made out of decorative papers) that I created to cover the sketch of the bunny. The second image is my rendition of the bunny in oil pastel. I used the following colors in order (building as I drew): yellow, light blue, scarlet, and dark blue with accents in white and black.

The Resting

The first stop on the path – The Resting. At this place, I buried my dogs, Bridget and Morgan.

Bridget was a Border Collie/Samoyed mix. A stubborn girl like me. But we held on to each through the abusiveness of my first marriage. We left that marriage together – and supported each other through multiple moves around the country. Morgan came along about three years after the end of my first marriage – a Russell Terrier/Beagle mix who was very pregnant when two kids in my neighborhood brought her to me. Morgan was the little momma, while Bridget was the wild child.

They traveled with me from Pennsylvania to Washington state – my meager belongings, my two dogs, and me packed into a Toyota Corolla. We were going to a place where I had an apartment (with a bed, an end table, a chair, and a boom box), but no job. A lot of hopes. And all the hopes came true. I got myself out of debt. I found my art again. There were quite a few surprises along the way, too – mainly, meeting the man who became my second husband/lifelong soulmate and the birth of my son. Beautiful memories of Bridget following my laughing son as he crawled down the hallway, her nose firmly fixed to his filled diaper; Morgan always sleeping with one eye open near my son, as he slept or played – the ever watchful momma.

They left me six months apart. They lived a long – and I hope, a happy – life. I still miss them.

[The full description of how I completed this piece follows the image.]

The Resting

The Resting

Before painting this piece, I first created an exploration of the negative space in my personal sketchbook. I concentrated on simplifying the many vines, deciding to focus on three vines and the headstone. Using clear contact paper, I cut out the shapes of the headstone and the leaves, applying them to the pages so they can mask those shapes. (I can never get the hang of masking fluid so I find using contact paper a much easier solution.) Next, I completed the background with a wash of acrylic paint and ink in quinacridone gold, carbazole violet, sepia, and white. After peeling off the contact paper, I mixed process cyan and process yellow acrylic inks and created the green shapes within each leaf shape. After drying, the leaves were completed with a swipe of green gold heavy body acrylic paint. The final touches were applied to the headstone with cadmium scarlet hue and carbazole violet.

Page 1 of A Path through the Woods

I originally picked this theme because I wanted to work on some “heady” issues in my life. In the end, those issues will be addressed in a series of paintings that I will begin on January 1, 2012 (and most likely will take me a year to complete). So I was left thinking about what to do with this sketchbook.

After realizing that, yes, I have very real woods in my backyard – woods that, after 10 years on this property, I started clearing of those wicked and invasive blackberry brambles. These brambles exist EVERYWHERE around Seattle, and we all do battle with them. They climb trees, wrapping their vines around trunks and branches, in a choke hold. The only way to get rid of them is to cut the vines at the base and then dig up the root ball. Blackberry bushes use both their vines and their roots to create new bushes. So when you dig up the root ball, you must cut the multiple roots as deeply as you can, as well as cut any vines that have rooted. 

Eventually, the vines die and lose their hold on the branches so you can pull them down “relatively easily”. Most of the time, when the vines come down, they swing back on you and cut your face and arms with the still very sharp thorns. In a month, new – albeit thin and weak – vines form but these new ones are very easy to pull. With persistence – and years – the blackberry bushes may disappear.

As my son, a wonderful neighbor, and I worked through my woods, we dug our own paths and, in the process, we found surprises, past memories, and future ones.

The first page of my sketchbook is my map:

Page 1 – The Map


Before beginning, I wanted to swap out the paper in the sketchbook, which was more appropriate for pencil and ink. Since I would be using different media (including acrylic) in my sketchbook, I chose acrylic paper which works for many different media without warping.

After researching bookbinding techniques, I chose a form of Japanese bookbinding using colored hemp thread. (Unfortunately, I didn’t punch the holes big enough and wound up destroying three needles in the process.) But, all in all, the rebound sketchbook looks good. It’s starting to have the look of something handmade. In the end, I plan to rework the front cover so it will have perhaps the look of worn leather – like an old treasure map.

Front of my rebound sketchbook

The Sketchbook Project 2012

The Sketchbook 2012 World Tour Logo

I’m beginning a few projects as the year 2011 dwindles down. The first project is the Sketchbook Project, sponsored through the Art House Co-op of the Brooklyn Art Library (http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject2012). My sketchbook title is “A Path Through the Woods”, and I’m using it to walk through the eighth of an acre of woods in the back of our property. It will be a walk through past memories, current events, and future hopes. Stay tuned.


Art Docent Fair at the Schack

Date and time: Tuesday, November 15 from 6-8:30 pm

Location: Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave. Everett, WA 98201; phone: 425-259-5050

Description: Fair for anyone currently participating in their school art docent program. Learn hands-on projects that you can teach your students. I will be teaching the Textured Pear project based on Berthe Morisot. Registration required. Go to: http://www.schack.org/education-programs/ for registration information.

Free digital printing demo at Daniel Smith, Seattle

Date and time: Sunday, November 13 from Noon-2pm

Location: Daniel Smith Art Supplies store in Seattle (4150 First Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98134).

Description: This demo focuses on how to use Golden Digital Printing Grounds to print crisp images on unconventional surfaces, like foil, fabric, and handmade paper. Topics include how to treat these surfaces, understanding how your printer prints, and positioning the surfaces for printing.

Dog Days Are Over

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Rabbit Heart

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Texturizing Demos at Daniel Smith

I’ll present two free demos at the Daniel Smith in Redmond/Bellevue (15112 NE 24th St., Redmond, WA; phone: 425-643-1781).

Thurs., Oct. 6 from 10 am to noon = Texturizing Basics. This free demo presents different types of texturizing methods available to the acrylic artist today. Topics include paper texturizing in underpainting – as shown in much of Jacqui Beck’s work (www.jacquibeck.com) and texturizing with Golden acrylic gels and grounds. When you leave this demo, you will understand the basics of these products, how they appear alone, mixed with paint, and painted on. (This demo and Beyond Texurizing are meant to be companion demos.)

Mon., Oct. 10 from 10 am to noon = Beyond Texturizing. This free demo builds on Texturizing Basics. In this demo, you will see how different Golden Acrylic gels and grounds can be used together to create exciting textures for your artwork.

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