Aug 21

Studio recovery

Thank you all for your kind words, calls, stop bys, and other support from my last post. I process things with this blog, and occasionally, well, it’s just not the cheerful artist tone I’m trying for.

But among my goals for the weekend was to put my studio back together. After “only” an hour an a half, I was able to get down to paint and paper again.  After making several piles and doing some general sorting, I realized that I am once again “down to the deadline” on two projects.

The first is a long-term stealth project that I hope to deliver next month. I have lots of pictures, but I can’t show them yet. I guess you’ll have to hold your breath until October!

The second is the Artists in Action Paint the Town event. The summer has FLOWN by and I have only made it to three events, but I only have a couple more weeks before my chosen three pieces need to be matted, framed, and turned in. I’d like to turn in the full limit of three pieces, and I think it would be good to try for one from each place. With that in mind, I took a look at my options.

Busch Park – June 18

This was a good day, painting wise. Of my four starts, two turned out well. While I will probably turn in “Bush Pasture” I also made small adjustments on “Over Bush Park.”

Hummingwood Farm – July 7

After spending so much time just clearing out my studio, time got away from me and I was only able to finish “Hummingwood Cottonwood”, though it is “Fenceline” I will probably turn in. I hope you can see where “Fenceline” is going by comparing it to the initial draft above.

As you can see, I used an opaque white to tune down the red sky in “Hummingwood Cottonwood.”

Cubanismo – August 5

Once again, I basically ran out of time and didn’t have a chance to work on the third of these paintings, but I’m very pleased with the progress on “Smoke over Cubanismo”, which is the one I will probably turn in. I also made a series of adjustments on “Through the Rows” but I just don’t think that one is quite as strong.

As always, I love it when you comment. If you have a favorite, let me know. Maybe I’ll change my mind about which to turn in.

Aug 17

The trouble with being human

I feel confident that I am not the only person struggling with existence right now. Honestly, based on headlines, I feel like anyone would be hard pressed NOT to be struggling with something.

In my little life, however, there seems to be a bountiful array of issues that are troubling me.


I am fat. It’s not fun. I work on it. But some days the discomfort can be intense.

I have developed plantar fasciitis (small tears in the plantar fascia ligament) in my right foot. The best way to get over it is to rest. But I have a young, active dog and a variety of other reasons that I need to go for a walk every day. Because of this, I’ve been struggling with this for almost a year and it’s not, in any way, on the mend.

My knees are aching, probably because I am fat and I am walking funny to try to compensate for the foot pain.

I am hot. I hate summer. I don’t like anything over 75 degrees. And it’s been a hot summer.

I can’t breath. There are a bunch of wildfires nearby and the air quality is bad and my asthma has flared up.

I’m tired. Objectively speaking, it’s been a long time since my last vacation (I think that was Hawaii in December of 2015.) I’ve been saving up vacation time for a while now to go to Montana with my mom next month, and I’m really starting to look forward to getting away.

Note: This isn’t to say I haven’t taken days off work, but most of those days have been art-workshop-related, which is not the same as vacation or time off.


I struggle with depression and anxiety. I currently appear to be going through something of an uptick in my depression, which means that every feeling and plan has to go through rigorous screening to ensure it’s:

  1. Socially acceptable
  2. Real
  3. Helpful

It’s not so much like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, it’s more like…

In addition, I am feeling sad about some extra-family issues that are going on. Sometimes, just because it’s not your responsibility, doesn’t mean that you don’t feel bad.

And finally, I am having some serious anxiety about some social issues. I’m not the best with people, which is hard enough. But one of my struggles is with lying, which doesn’t always have the same meaning to me as it does to society. I am someone who does my best to do what i said I will do (I don’t know how true that is in reality, but it’s true in my head); the rest of the world has a looser definition. That can be hard for me to deal with.


I don’t feel creative. That statement is not altogether true. I have things I’d like to do, but the studio is just too overwhelming right now. I feel overwhelmed by the weight of everything I need and want to do. Going into the studio (currently a disaster because last weekend’s event) is not possible without some work.

I don’t feel very motivated. Believe it or not, this is a different issue that the first. The event last weekend (Englewood Forest Festival) was fun, but I didn’t have many sales and it was a tremendous amount of work to get out there. It’s making me wonder if I should be trying to sell my art at all. Which leads to a whole other set of questions about what I need and should have and should do… And there goes my motivation.

I am heartsick. I feel like current events have been hashed over enough. I won’t go into them more. But my heart hurts in the place inside me that believed that most people in our political arena were just doing the best they could. That all but a tiny percentage of people understood that some things just were not okay.


I see the term “triggered” a lot these days, to the point that I sometimes cringe a little when someone talks about it. But I believe that most of us have triggers. Kids and spouses are excellent at finding them and pushing them. Friends can hit them with a casual word. Co-workers can unintentionally kick them. The other day my dog joyfully jumped, rolled, and ate his way around one of mine.

For whatever reason, last weekend’s events triggered me and I’m going through another stage of grief: depression.

The real trouble with being human is that we are at the mercy of our synapses. And when those synapses get hijacked into sending alternative messages, it can be hard to get them back in proper working order.

One theory on depression, and it’s a theory that meshes well with my own experience, is that when you are depressed, the synapses don’t communicate as well, with positive messages being among the first casualties.

In other words, when I take my dog out for an early morning walk and watch the sunrise, I think, “How beautiful.” But my heart doesn’t lift. And I go back to brooding about all the things that need to be fixed.

I’ll sign off today with this, my favorite Bible verse. Read it, or don’t. But if you choose to read it, take it as an early recommendation to join the current mindfulness trend.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7


Aug 14

Just a prayer

My heart is too heavy and my body too sore to write a good blog post tonight. I will try to catch you up on some important artistic contemplations later in the week.

For tonight, however, I just need to share this.

Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force a man into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the judge of all.
John Wesley

There were some other good ones that I thought about putting up here. But tonight seems like a time for less not more.

Aug 07

The melted artist

Greetings from Oregon which is currently imitating Arizona, Nevada, or possibly the Sahara. Seriously. For the last week, we have been experiencing record-setting triple digit highs: 106, 104, or 108 depending on where you were. It was so hot that my porch got up to 94 degrees one day, event with the fan plugged in and the mister going.

To beat the heat, I have been getting up at 5am to walk the dog. This is completely unnatural behavior for me. The only upside has been the collection of gorgeous sunrises.

As for actual painting… well… my excuse is that it’s been very hot.

On a more positive note, I did meet the deadline for the October WSO show, so either “Scent of Season” or “Modern Charger” has a fighting chance to get in.

Each got one last minute adjustment.

I have until next weekend to figure out what (if anything) to enter in the NWWS show. If you don’t try, you don’t get in.

In other art news, this next weekend I will be doing the Englewood Forest Festival. The weather is projected to be cooler, and even if it’s not, it’s a very shady park. I hope you’ll consider swinging by.

This weekend I participated in the local Artists in Action “Paint the Town” event at Cubanisimo Vineyards. Again, I battled the heat, even in my shady spot and ended up with a light sunburn on my neck. It was a beautiful spot, with red tailed hawks and bluebirds everywhere you looked. Unfortunately, my camera chose to misbehave (that’s my story…) and I don’t have pictures to show off. You’ll have to make do with my works in progress.

I worked on them some today in the studio, but I reached a frustration point and decided to do this.

I’ll paint red if I want to

Yes, my artistic maturity level dipped.

Signing off… got to get up early again tomorrow to walk the dog. This heat wave is expected to last through Wednesday. Ugg.

Jul 27

Eventful times

It’s been a week since the Ruth Buchanan workshop and I feel like I’m getting back to “real” life finally.

Equine Art 2017

No prizes or sales this year at Equine Art 2017 at Emerald Downs. Of course, I couldn’t attend because of the workshop, but from the names of the winning artists, it looks like it was a strong show.

American Academy of Equine Art

But I did hear from AAEA that “At Liberty” got in.

This is my second time into an AAEA show; if I can get in again, I can have the title of “Juried Member.”

Other news

In other news, Key (my dog, you’ll remember) had been acing his nose work classes and is now officially “on scent”. He doesn’t seem to impressed; it’s really all about the food when you’re a dog.

I manned the Salem Art Fair booth on Sunday for Artists in Action for a few hours and had a blast. I met a professional unicorn and watched Celtic dancing. It was too hot to do much more than people watch, but it was well worth the time.

10 paintings – “Hoof beats”

Saturday I basically rested. It was blazing hot and I was exhausted. It was a good use of time, and toward the end of the day, I started to think about my homework from Ruth.

You told me on the first day that you get distracted by color. I want you do do a week of painting in two colors, and then add three colors. Send me a timeline of your work and we’ll go over it.

So, I hereby put my feet to the fire and announce my plan:

The rules

  1. Try to make these paintings show-worthy (no, “It’s just an exercise”)
  2. Do a value sketch for each
  3. Between 1/4 and 1/8 sheet
  4. Properly stretch the paper
  5. Draw the base (no tracing)
  6. Count strokes (slow down, use your brush

I’m not putting a timeline on this, but I want to do 10 paintings in both the two color and three color. So, 20 paintings total.


Well, I’ve been wanting to do a series.

This will not be my only painting, because I have other commitments. But I am going to try to focus.

I can hear you laughing.

Jul 19

Workshop accomplished

Six months ago I was checking out my Facebook feed, which is typically filled with birds, horses, dogs, and art. One of my favorite artists, Ruth Buchanan, posted about lining up her 2017 workshop schedule. I took a chance and contacted her to ask if she ever did workshops in America, thinking if given enough time I might be able to attend one. She hadn’t done an American workshop yet, she told me, but it just so happened she was coming to the States in July. Would I be interested in setting one up?

Thus, a watercolor workshop on horses in Keizer, Oregon, was born.

I hit up my friends and everyone else I could think of to get the break-even eight people. Ruth did her own promo, and by June, we head 10 eager artists to fill up the workshop. Ruth was generous enough to consent to staying with me to keep costs down, which meant a little more work on my end, but I couldn’t have been more excited.


Last Thursday was finally the great day and I went to the airport to pick up Ruth. I felt a lot of pressure on this one portion of the process; either we’d meet up without a hassle and make our way down to Salem… or we’d cruise the airport, missing each other until midnight when we were the only two people there.

I forgot about texting. After miserable traffic made me a little late, Ruth texted me her location and we were together. Things were off to a good start, and she didn’t even make a face when I had to ask the information kiosk how to get back to the parking lot.

There was more traffic back down to Salem, but now we had important matters such as pigments, paper, and workshop business to discuss. We got home a little later than I had originally hoped, but it wasn’t long before we were fed, medicated, and in bed.


The original plan was for me to work for a half day to give Ruth some extra rest, then come back and run a few errands before heading out for the optional photo reference day at Lazy Dog Ranch. It turned out a few more errands were necessary, so I ended up taking the whole day off.

About half the class chose to come down and meet Ruth and head out for pictures of “pushing” cows. Ruth briefly talked to us about the importance of sketching from life and looking for lines of movement. Then the Lazy Dog crew gave us a show.

I had never met the Lazy Dog crew before, just admired them on Facebook. I asked them not to do anything special, and they told me this was just some general work to move cows around, do a small medical procedure on one calf, and then some roping practice. If they had really put on a show, I’m not sure my heart would have withstood the excitement!

I ended up taking over 1000 photos. Ruth says she took 28. She spent her time looking, asking questions, and eventually…

Ruth Buchanan on (horse) Jackson

We stayed until nearly 9, two hours after the rest of the class left. I was wondering at this point if I had made a tactical error… maybe I should have put the live horses AFTER the painting.


But Ruth was a professional and Saturday morning got up, prepared to teach and paint. Almost no begging to go back to play with the horses. (It was clear she has more control than I.)

After we got through the first bumps of making coffee, getting set up, and actually starting, Ruth gave an opening lecture full of technical information on painting, value sketches, and horses and then started a demo piece.

She called this start a “grisaille”; she was adding in background color of lights and darks to build upon, but even more interestingly, she was adding gestural marks and “lines” to indicate movement and painting focus.

One thing I had requested was a demonstration on tack. I can’t seem to make tack “sit” on the horses; it always looks (forgive me) painted on. I was surprised when she covered this the first day, before adding body color or other details.

These are my notes from this process. I have a LOT to think about.

  • Sculpt the face/body using tack shadows
  • Tack has reflections
  • Build up the color on tack (I believe she used 4-6 colors)
  • Leave buckles white
  • Break the line on tack

After the tack demo, Ruth set us our first painting exercise. Three pears were set up and we were to paint them; however, one pear was to be in a single color, one pear to be in two, and the remaining pear was to use three colors.

As usual, I got a little overexcited…

After we were done, we took pictures of our pears and turned them into monotone paintings through the wonders of phone cameras. The point of this was to judge our comfort with color and value. As you can see, on my paintings the 3-color-pears are the darkest while the 1-color-pears are the lightest. I’m not doing a bad job with any, but it emphasizes my distraction with color.

My eventual homework comes back to this exercise.


It must be mentioned, at this point, that Ruth and I hit local restaurants for our sustenance. Of course, the most famous local restaurant is Word of Mouth and Sunday morning we got up early in hopes of getting there when they opened for the first round of tables. We arrived at 6:45 to find the restaurant that opened at 7 already had a 30 minute wait. We decided to stick it out, and this is what that decision netted.

In a food coma, we waddled back to the Keizer Art Association for day two.


Ruth’s second demo was starting two versions of the same painting side by side. The one of the left is a figurative start where the one on the right is an “abstract” start. This was to show the group that you can have similar messages with different effects.

As Ruth emphasized, this was a painting workshop. After a lecture, she made us take those words to heart with a twenty-minute exercise focusing on brushwork, gestural marks, and pushing boundaries. Ruth popped up a reference photo and told us to start painting. She made us change colors, grips, and even paintings with our neighbors.

From the top left: Judith Mohney, Lesley Lamb, Karen Berg, Pam Eckert, Elizabeth Zimmerman, Kathleen Buck, Marjorie Kinch, Eileen Rella, Kathleen Haney, and Tara Choate

The point of all this was to emphasize this point: Let the painting BE a painting. There’s a difference between drawing, coloring-in, and painting.Use gestural marks as part of the process. Find the lyrical quality of what you are creating, not just the technical mechanics of copying a subject. She quoted a teacher of her own when she said, “Overworking detail is like public masterbation.” It’s a good reminder for me when I get too down on myself for not recreating every, single detail.

Ruth also gave a passionate lecture on the power of music and warm ups as part of the process. For me, this is a reminder of other artists’ lectures on their warm up routines. In fact, the workshop as a whole emphasized what I have been working on since the Franceso Fontana workshop last September: Value, brush work, and color.


Day three was when it was all supposed to come together. After another brief technical lecture, Ruth concentrated her demo on adding color to the horse’s body in the day one painting.

One thing I liked was that Ruth allowed us to watch or do exercises, so I started the day’s task, which was to do a “3 Rules Painting” from one of her reference photos.

3 Rules Paintings

  1. Work on no smaller than 1/8 sheet, no larger that 1/4 sheet
  2. Big brushes
  3. 2 hours, start to finish

Again, I got over excited and did two 1/4 sheet paintings. One I tried to keep to her reference photo (it was her horse, Atlas) and the other I changed (and messed) up.


However, I took a significant pause once Ruth started applying color to her demo. Another thing I had been excited about seeing was how she was applying paint to get the amazing musculature evident in her paintings. What became evident was that Ruth uses tonal values to drive musculature. Mind blown. Not sure I’m ready for that, but it was amazing to watch.

The last event was for Ruth to take a look at our work over the last three days, including our “3 Rules Paintings”, and do a critique. It was here that it became apparently that there was method to everything she had asked us to do. We had started out where we were (day 1), had been asked to embrace painting (day 2), and then had been asked to pull it together (day 3). I know I wasn’t the only one with a lot to think about on the way home.

After class ended, Ruth and I came back home, she packed up, we had a celebratory glass of wine (half a glass for me, the driver), and then we took her to an airport hotel so she could catch her early more Tuesday flight easily.

On the drive back, I had even more to think about than the rest of the class.


Ruth told me this: “You told me on the first day that you get distracted by color. I want you do do a week of painting in two colors, and then add three colors. Send me a timeline of your work and we’ll go over it.”

As I’ve wandered around the house today, doing chores and errands, my mind has going over this. And I’m still not sure what’s going to happen with this.



Frankly, I’m tempted to leave that as my conclusion because I think it gives a good feel for how amazing the workshop was. It was exactly what I needed and gives me a push to figure out my next steps.

But what’s even more amazing is that Ruth connected, I think, on that same level with everyone in the class. While she set boundaries, the most obvious that this was a painting class, not a drawing class, she had something personal and helpful to say to each person. I was surprised that several people chose to attend, but these were the people who told me what a great class it was. Everyone said that when I invite Ruth back to let them know because they’ll come back.

Okay, Ruth… let’s set a date!

Jul 10

Down to the wire

It has been a busy week, art-wise, and looks to continue that way. Unfortunately, that means a lot of work for me that I just might not survive!

Case in point, Thursday i had to leave work early to drive up to Newberg to turn in two paintings for the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival. Later that evening I had to scurry around at 9:30 at night to get packing materials to send “Strategy Session” and “Chasing Dark” up to Equine Art 2017. I thought I would turn into a pumpkin! Then before I went to bed, I send in the final images of “Modern Charger” and “At Liberty” to the American Academy of Equine Art. Fingers crossed.

At least one of these endeavors had a pleasant result. One of my paintings for the Lavender Festival got an honorable mention and was sold! I don’t know which I’m more excited about!

Saturday I went to another plein air event in the local Artists in Action “Paint the Town” series. I had a busy morning before I left and so I just grabbed a few supplies and hit the road. This is to explain why, when I got there, I didn’t have yellow on my palette.

I may try to do the cottonwood piece over if I have time.

Capping off all this art is THE BIG EVENT of the summer: Ruth Buchanan‘s workshop! Six months ago when I asked her if she ever did American workshops I never dreamed that she’d have a family wedding over here and would be willing to give a workshop along the way. The Keizer Art Association graciously allowed us to have it there and she’ll be arriving on Thursday,

I’m nervous about the workshop, but probably even more nervous that Ruth will be staying with me. This workshop is on a budget and Ruth graciously said she would stay with me to keep costs down. The only bad part of about this is that my house is now cleaner than it has been since I moved in. And I’m exhausted. This weekend I have dusted, mopped, and even rented a carpet cleaner. The trick is that we just can’t live here for the next four days…

Jul 05

Due dates

Happy July 4th!

I spent my day trying to catch up on the myriad painting deadlines that are bearing down on me with their relentless demands.

Lavender Festival (July 7-9)

i finalized the last details and tags for my paintings for the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival. Thursday afternoon I’ll trundle over to Newberg and drop those paintings off.

American Academy of Equine Art (due July 7)

A couple of weeks ago I took my ice-painting-started pieces “At Liberty” and “Modern Charger” to critique group. I’ve been working on the last details and today I (hopefully) finished them.

Equine Art 2017 (July 13-16)

I matted and framed the three pieces (Strategy Session, Chasing Dark, and First Turn) I will be sending up to Equine Art 2017 at Emerald Downs.I  need to check when those need to ship to be there for hanging.

Watercolor Society of Oregon (August 1)

While I was waiting for things to dry, I put a couple of Ruth Armitage‘s critiques of Scent of Season into reality.


I may be the only one who notices the changes, but they are there.

I’m not sure what other painting I will submit.

Englewood Forest Festival (August 12, 2017)

While waiting for various things to dry, I put the final touches on my small bird paintings for the Englewood Forest Festival. That’s more than a month out… I feel so prepared!

Jul 03

Manual labor

This weekend has been about manual labor.

Saturday I had a plan. And six hours later, the plan had become this.

For any readers not friends with me on Facebook, I’m redoing my front yard. On Saturday, the last of the forms came off the new walkways, fill dirt was brought in, and we begun putting in the rocks for the (eventual) berm. All this was done Saturday because Joe, owner of the concrete equipment, needed to move on. So I took advantage of his equipment before it left.

This plan put a dent in my real plan for the day, which was to head up to Washington to see my friend Chad at Mt. Pleasant Iris Farms and paint with friend Sandra Pearce. While I eventually made my way up there, I just sketched because I just didn’t have time to see everything, chat with everyone, and paint too.

Sunday, after dog training, I concentrated on finishing up paintings for various events. I have decided to enter these two paintings in the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival show, so I got them touched up, framed, and labelled for deliver.

I also worked on changes suggested by my critique group to the two horse paintings I intend to enter in the American Academy of Equine Art show. I’ll give you a final view before they go off.

In other good news, Strategy Session will be heading over to Montana for the Montana Watercolor Society Watermedia show in September.

Mom is from Montana, and we will be traveling over there this fall for vacation and to visit family. I took a chance and decided to enter! I’m really excited that it got in.

Strategy Session, Chasing Dark, and First Turn will be heading up to Emerald Downs late in the week for the Equine Art Show.

For once, I won’t be able to go up and visit the show, because I’ll be hosting Ruth Buchanan here in Salem for her equine workshop. I am INCREDIBLY excited. But… it will be MORE manual labor. I need to get the house in a state where I won’t be ashamed to have a guest for a few days!

Jun 26

Blogging is cool and smells like lavender

As a people, Oregonians are equipped to deal with rain, not heat. When it gets hot, we melt. We melt especially painfully when it goes from raining to 100+ degrees inside a short number of days.

This is the current state of the dog.

The cat is already so thin (he’s old) that he may just be a little puddle of hair some place in the house.

And in the middle of this oven, I trekked out to Barn Owl Nursery on Saturday to paint for the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival with friends Sandra Pearce and Cathy Cramer.

Cathy preparing a new sheet.

The “painting window” is pretty short on this festival. This weekend and next weekend are the only times that were listed as painting days, though I know other artists are trying to hit one (or even two) farms a day, even on week days (oh, to be retired…) Paintings must be turned into the show July 3, so there is a definite sense of urgency to our efforts.

I signed up, but I have not yet mentally committed to turning in a painting. It makes me feel better; if I don’t have something I’m proud of, I can back out. Yes, I’m a coward.

Saturday the proprietor of Barn Owl Nursery was nice enough to let the artists arrive a little early, so we arrived in the comparative cool of 8:30.

The owners were out doing a little harvesting of fresh lavender so they could demonstrate things like distilled lavender and lavender lemonade.

I stuck with my intention of working on value sketches before moving to paints. My overall impression is that this is good, but I need to be putting a little more into it and also working on design before I start.

First Sketch – Morning Shadows

Second Sketch – Morning on the Oak


Right now, this one is my favorite. I like the composition, the glow, and the values.

Third Sketch – no name yet

As you can see, I got pretty distracted about here.I did a background for a vertical and ended up tearing off the top path to turn it into a little abstract.

It was about 11:30 at this time and i was sweating just sitting in a chair and painting. A few more minutes and I told my friends that i was calling it a day. They took a break, too, and we all went to lunch in air-conditioned splendor with ice-cold water as the largest part of the menu.

Today was dog training class. By the time that was over, it was too hot to do much of anything. I ran some errands around town (along with all other humans), but going from an air conditioned store back to a car with a steering wheel hot enough to scald hands made me reconsider the my plan.

I sat down in my studio (not air-conditioned, but also not in the outside) and worked on finishing these paintings and prioritizing the rest of the studio.

Let’s just say I need to get to work!

Older posts «

Fetch more items