Sunday, December 7, 2014


Fearrington Village in North Carolina is perhaps the most idyllic place I have ever plein air painted.  This scene is one of the many views that called out "paint me!" on my first painting trip to Fearrington.  

I chose this dramatic hydrangea bush because of the rich blue blossoms in the shade and the play of light that leads your eye down the path and around the bush to beauty waiting to be discovered.

Here is my painted version, which won third place in a "Miniatures & Small Works" show:
Hydrangea, 6x8 oil
Custom framed 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Venice Gold

A few years ago, my husband and I strolled through Venice on the first stop of our 25th anniversary trip.  This scene caught my eye because of the way the water turned golden with the reflection of a brightly sunlit buildings along one of the city's many canals ...

I cropped the photo to draw the golden light closer,

and then created a simplified sketch on canvas.  I was careful to get the architecture and perspective correct at this point (much easier now than later!)

One of the fun things about painting is that there are many "correct" ways to start.  For this painting, I chose to begin with my darkest area, which is the shadowed water that leads to the foreground boat, and then use that dark value to "key" my other values.

I painted each area almost to completion before moving on to the next, but always while comparing values -- darks vs. lights.  The important thing in this painting was to capture the essence of a golden glow, which meant that subtle value changes really mattered.

My process continued in this manner until the canvas was covered and then I went back for a second pass to make color corrections and add nuances.

I really love the way the lines in this composition lead your eye from the foreground boat through the golden sunlight and then along the walkway back to the foreground.  This painting was part of my "Making Ripples" solo show and helped to raise funds for a Rotary clean water & sanitation project in the Dominican Republic that my husband and I will be volunteering on in January 2015.
Venice Gold, 20x16 oil, SOLD
Here's the original cropped photo again for comparison:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Baby and Ewe, Anew

What happens when artists create paintings that they aren't quite happy with?  

Sometimes the paintings get wiped off the canvas while still wet, sometimes they get painted over when they're dry, and sometimes they serve as fuel for a farewell bonfire.

Another option is to put them out of sight and hope that the passage of time will bring a fresh perspective on what isn't working.

Today's painting falls in that last category.  I created "Baby and Ewe" last year, but as much as I loved the subject matter, there was something about it that didn't work for me.  After keeping it out of sight for several months, I decided to revisit it and immediately could see what was bugging me.

The original painting, on the left, lacked depth because the field of dry grass was too warm in color, making the sheep and field appear to be on the same plain.  I'm much happier with with the "Baby and Ewe" redo.

 Here's what I did:
1) Repainted the field a more neutral color
2) Added more texture and interest to the grass 
3) Increased the contrast on the sheep 

Voila!  Baby and Ewe, anew!  8x8 oil
Baby and Ewe, anew

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Golden Oats

My favorite time of day to be at the beach is late afternoon ... the sand is cooler, the colors are richer, the shadows offer dramatic contrasts, and the hustle and bustle settles into a quiet peace.  Golden Oats celebrates that time of day.
I started with this image, from a glorious afternoon in Nags Head, NC. 

After sketching basic placements, I squinted my eyes at the photograph and painted an undercoat of cool colors for the shadowed, darker valued areas that I saw.  From this beginning, I felt that it would be a strong composition, leading the viewer's eye in from the bottom left and then moving around to the steps, followed by the dunes on the right, and then  back to the entry point.  At least that's what my eye does :) 

In the first coat of thicker paint, I tried to stay true to my initial dark/light composition while laying in more accurate colors.

This next, and final, step took the most time, with lots of subtleties to show depth, but I feel that it successfully captures my favorite beach time of day.
Golden Oats, 12x16, SOLD


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cactus Glow

 Living in Raleigh, NC, the land of tall pines and rolling green hills, I didn't realize how beautiful a cactus could be until our recent trip to San Diego.  We were exploring a park when the late afternoon sun gently rested on this prickly beauty, softening the sharp edges with its warm glow.  I knew immediately that this was a subject I wanted to paint!

I chose an 18x24" canvas and sketched the basic placement of the cactus and the shadows, being careful to include accurate lines that defined the roundness of the shape.
My first layer went on quickly, with bold colors and transparent paints.  This part was really fun.  I put a thin coat of purple along the sunlit rim of the cactus to enhance the glowing effect.  While it was still wet, I wiped off paint to create the soft highlight area and also to create the prickly parts.
Applying opaque paints in the next layer took a lot longer, but I feel like I was able to capture the spirit of this sunlit moment the way I had envisioned.
Cactus Glow, 18x24 Oil, available soon :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dressed for Spring

After a week filled with snow and sleet, I am definitely ready for Spring!  My head knows that somewhere under the slush and muck a transformation is on its way, but my heart could really use a reminder.  Here it is...

I pass by this home on my morning run and when the azaleas bloom I am in awe.
 I chose a cropped, square format to minimize the house and emphasize the sunlit coat of blossoms.
There's surely no better garment with which to be dressed for Spring than a sunlit coat of blossoms :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Peace of the Day

What could be more enticing than layers of downy comfort on a warm, sunlit bed?  After a long, hectic drive on the Jersey Turnpike, this is the wonderful view that welcomed us to the Sleepy Hollow Country Club for my cousin's wedding this Fall.  It was definitely our peace of the day.
As I thought about painting this scene, I knew that I wanted to emphasize its strong light and dark patterns, so I started with a small "thumbnail" sketch to establish my values with dark, light, and medium.  This quick sketch was my road map for both an 8x10 study and a larger 12x24 painting.
 For both paintings, I began with a lightly toned canvas and basic placement of the elements, giving special attention to getting the perspective correct. 
The next steps involved adding color, focusing on warm and cool, while trying to be true to the values that I established in my initial thumbnail sketch.  If you squint at this final painting, you'll see that I managed to stay pretty close! :)
Peace of the Day, 8x10 Oil, framed (available)
For the larger painting, I decided to use a wider canvas for my composition, which I think worked really well:
Peace of the Day II, 12x24 Oil (available)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Life is Sweet

Every Spring I hang my hummingbird feeder on my kitchen window and look forward to the return of these beautiful and amazing wonders of the world.  One year I stood very still near the feeder (for a long time!) with my hand resting on the perch.  What a thrill it was when one of the tiny birds landed on my finger and stayed there while enjoying the sugar water that I had prepared.  Life is sweet!
Here is my painted version of two of those kitchen window visitors...

...and these are the reference photos that I used:
To create a stronger composition and to give a sense of story to the paintings when they are hung together, I made several intentional decisions: 
- chose small, 6x6 canvases to focus more intimately on each delicate hummingbird
- reversed the direction of the female bird so that she was facing her sweetheart
- replaced the feeder with impatiens from my backyard 
Here's the edited photo I ended up using for one of my references:

And here are the two little paintings in progress:
I really enjoyed painting the reflected color on the belly of the female ruby-throated hummingbird.  Since she doesn't have a red throat like her male counterpart, it was a great way to give her more color! 
Life is Sweet II, 6x6 oil (sold)
Life is Sweet I, 6x6 oil (sold)