The Little Workshop that Could

A little over a year ago, I took a workshop with English equestrian artist Ruth Buchanan that I cannot say enough nice things about. After a few weeks had passed and I had recovered my composure (it’s hard work learning new things and having an idol come to stay with you), I asked if Ruth might be interested in coming back to do a second workshop.

Ledove sketch by Ruth Buchanan

Now, honestly, I was thinking she might come back in a couple of years. But she told me that she would be coming back to the states next summer for a family wedding and that she wanted to do a workshop about drawing because so many people had asked her about it.

Sketches by Ruth Buchanan

After polling the participants of the last workshop, 60% of whom said they were in, Ruth and I worked up a plan. The first workshop had been in the Salem/Keiser area, which is a populated area, but not as populated at Portland. So I contacted the Oregon Society of Artists (Portland, Oregon) and they were excited about the possibility of having Ruth come.

“Cobalt Greys” by Ruth Buchanan

As I said, we thought a drawing workshop would be well received. And Ruth had just published an article in The Artist magazine entitled “10  Approaches to Drawing”. Additionally, Ruth had just done a series of workshops in the UK with this title, so we felt like this would work out great.

How to turn a sketch into a painting by Ruth Buchanan

We settled on a date (August 11-13, 2018), settled on a price ($295), created the flyers… and waited.

Sketch and sketch with color added by Ruth Buchanan

A few registrations came in, but the workshop wasn’t filling up the way we had hoped it would.

We promoted some more. And waited.

Finally, we got our heads together and talked about how to rebrand the workshop without changing the focus. The focus of the workshop had always been improving an artists drawing with the idea of taking those drawings on to become paintings. So, we thought, we needed to focus on that. Thus, we changed the workshop title to “Strong Drawings, Dramatic Paintings.”

Value painting in one color by Ruth Buchanan

That seemed to do the trick because registrations started to come in. But it’s been slower than I hoped.

Sketch to painting “Gathering” by Ruth Buchanan

Now we’re two weeks away and we’ve met our minimum, but we still have a few spots left. Two, to be precise.

I’d really like those spots to fill. Ruth is an amazing artist and her techniques are universal, horses just happen to be her subject.

Here is a description of her class, straight from Ruth. I’ve also attached her planned daily schedule. As I’ve said, I’d really like to get a couple more registrations.

Let me know if you are interested and feel free to share this post!

“In the Wings” by Ruth Buchanan

“Strong Drawings, Dramatic Paintings: 10 Approaches to Drawing” by Ruth Buchanan

Strong Drawings, Dramatic Paintings

A three-day course on drawing/sketching techniques, drawing approaches and drawing to support and strengthen painting taught by professional artist Ruth Buchanan. The workshop includes demonstrations and drawing exercises with supported free working sessions where artists may bring reference photos and painting supplies.

Working with ten approaches/techniques to drawing a subject, the workshop expands on Ruth’s article in ‘The Artist’ Magazine on drawing Horses (UK January 2018), which in turn was based on a Ruth’s drawing workshop. The aim is to strengthen your natural drawing style and confidence through considering other approaches to looking at and rendering various subjects. During the three days we will also consider drawing as a preparation towards making your paintings have more impact by looking at values, composition and focus.

Ruth Buchanan has worked as a professional artist for 17 years. Whilst best known for her equestrian paintings, Ruth paints a variety of subjects and has many years experience in Life Drawing. The workshop will include some equine and animal drawing alongside drawing other subjects. The skills and techniques are applicable to all drawing regardless of subject.

Previous to her current profession, Ruth worked as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator where she specialized in watercolors of architecture and still life for lifestyle publications. She also taught Print based Media (design) and Film Studies at A level and Diploma level in the intervening five years.

Materials required:

  • Sketchbook – A4 (8.5” x 11”) minimum please. Ideally A3 (11”x14”) (Note: This is different than a notebook or journal)
    • Paper for 10 exercises. You may want to bring some toned/tinted paper and something strong enough to work on in charcoal and/or ink.
  • A board and clips or tape if you wish to work at an easel (recommended)
  • A notebook or journal
  • Graphite Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Some sort of sharpening device
  • Charcoal
  • White or pale blue pastel or chalk
  • A couple of colored pencils
  • A biro (ballpoint pen) and/or dip pen and ink
  • Optional: Reference to work from in the supported free work time
  • An open mind and a willingness to have a go!

Whilst this is a drawing workshop but there will be some supported free work time so you are welcome to bring paints as well.

Brief timetable outline

Day 1 – 9.30 to 3.30

  • Three of the approaches – demonstration, ‘draw along’ and exercises.
  • Ruth’s sketchbooks – what sketchbooks mean to Ruth and a chance to have a flick through!
  • Shading with attention to light source. Identifying lights in a composition
  • Supported free working time with a discussion on working from life and working from photographs.

Day 2 – 9.30 to 3.30

  • Three more approaches – demonstration, ‘draw along’ and exercises
  • Tool holds and how this can influence your work
  • Working in a more immediate way
  • Drawing and painting from memory
  • Shading – mapping and simplifying tones for key impact
  • Composition – strengthening your drawing and your painting
  • Supported plein air drawing

Day 3 – 9.30 to 3.30

  • Working from a model: exercises on previous approaches and the other approaches not so far covered
  • Drawing in other media and with other tools
  • Mark making in drawing and painting
  • Review of all work
  • Feedback and critique

Goodbye, Bob

Today I said goodbye to my cat, Bob.

Bob, 2002

I got Bob from the Oregon Humane Society in the fall of 2001 as a shop cat for my business, Pawsitively Clean (a self serve pet wash in Portland, Oregon.) He was about 6 months old and had been adopted once and returned for “digestive issues.” I never figured out what that meant and never had a problem with him in that way.

Bob, 2005

Bob was a superlative shop cat, if a bit of an instigator. He would greet people and seemed to know instinctively which dogs he could approach and which dogs he should stay away from; the later he would torment by walking near when they were safely hooked up in the wash and unable to get to him.

When I sold the store in 2008, I took Bob with me to live as a civilian cat.

Bob, 2010

While I think he missed the excitement of the store a little, he relaxed into a routine of luxury, willingly sharing home with my other cats (who have since passed on.)

A few years ago, about the time I moved to Salem, I noticed Bob was losing some weight and when I took him in to see the vet, they confirmed that he had gone from a svelte 13 pounds to about 9 pounds. After running some tests, the dreaded words came up… kidney disease.

Bob, 2015

Kidney disease in older cats is very common (both Lola and Bella died from it), but it is not swift killer and a lot can be done to manage the issues (weight loss, dehydration, etc.) Bob has never been a cuddly cat, or a cat who tolerated a lot of interference; I always called him “a very cat-y cat”. So “emergecy” treatments like fluids, pills, and pain killers have never been on the menu.

A few months ago, when I took him to the vet, the term “hospice care” was used. Bob had gone from 9 pounds down to 7.4. The vet told me that when he went into the next “valley” it might be time to say goodbye.

The heat wave that took over the area a few weeks ago has been hard on Bob. It’s hard on many animals, but particularly older animals.

Bob, 2018

He wasn’t eating regularly, and because he wasn’t eating he was getting dehydrated. He wouldn’t purr. He wouldn’t come see me.

No pet owner wants the last day to be the worst day, so today… I said goodbye.

Just do something different

This has been a weekend that turned out nothing like I expected it to. First, my plans for Saturday fell through not once but three times! Second, my small cold of last week has morphed into a sinus infection that is just not friendly. And third, I painted. A lot.

Probably because I have been doing a lot of realistic painting, something with lots of texture and color was calling my name. When I reorganized the studio a couple of week ago, I was able to put some paintings where I could actually look at them and ponder them. Yesterday they called my name and I decided to stop pussy-footing around and DO SOMETHING!

Teal Horse

Have you ever felt like you just needed a teal horse? After looking at this painting for the last two weeks, I decided teal was the only appropriate solution.

Now, this painting has been hanging around since 2016. In fact, it had ice painting applied to it (unsuccessfully) in late 2016.

Since then, I have had no ideas about what to do with it. I just kept thinking that I wished I could add some teal. So, on Saturday, I decided to use “gesso juice” (2 parts gesso, 1 part matte medium, 1 part water) to add some texture and white that I could then work on.

Well, at least it’s not the same. So, today I added a wash of teal to the dried gesso juice.

As I said… at least it’s not the same.

What are moons?

Again, harkening back to 2016, I got in a mood and started an abstract background. I didn’t manage to get a very good picture of this start.

Forgive the shadow…

At some point I drew a series of circles, intending to create moons and painted them with white gouache. I don’t have a picture of this step (add another painting to my unfinished total (I said 31, but it’s actually 33)), but the planets were not distinct enough, so I decided to use the leftover gesso juice to pop out those planets.

On NPR sometime in the last week, there was a story about how they had discovered 12 new moons on Juniper. Therefore, these are now moons, not planets.

The color was added with a combination of watercolor and acrylic with Gelli plate printing and also salt. I’m still not done, but I’m kind of digging it. And it’s different than it was.


Once again, I have done a terrible job of keeping track of progress. This painting started out with ice painting in 2016.

After my Ruth Ellen Hoag workshop, I know I drew and painted this on it.

I really like this, but I’ve been pondering (occasionally) how to get that lead horse to really pop out.

As we know, I can’t be left along with any sort of extra paint, so I decided to use the last of the gesso juice and see what happened.

Again… now it’s different. Some color might help.

I admit, I lost some streaks that I found appealing. But I’m not sure that this won’t work with some tweaking.

At least it’s different.


It was a big week in my art word. The Willamette Valley Lavender Festival concluded (I get a break from purple!) with the show over the weekend. My non-painting friend, Miriam, and I attended the reception Friday night and met up with my painting friends Sandra Pearce, Susan Spears, and  Cathy Cramer. To my shock and delight, I received an honorable mention in the “Open” category.

Honorable Mention for “Wind Over the Lavender”

None of my other art friends received an award, though they entered in the professional category (this is a hotly debated topic I won’t go into now.)

The list of award winners is impressive in both categories. I’m extremely flattered to be counted among them!

1st Place: Tracy Leagjeld, “First Light”
2nd Place: Cathlaen Rehfeld “Cascade Morning Light”
3rd Place: Jennifer Diehl “Sun Over the Field”
Honorable Mentions:
Brenda Boylan, “After lil Lavender”
Dianna Shynne, “Hillsboro Farm House”
Gary Buhler, “Lavender Mt. Hood”
Donna Clark, “Birch Tree Salute”
Ramona Youngquist, “Summer Shade”
Janay Elder, “Last Light on the Farm”

OPEN DIVISION Place: Elo Wobig, “Joy Ride”
2nd Place: Kristen Horn, “View to Crooked Tree”
3rd Place: Nancy Zhang, “Field of Purple”
Honorable Mentions:
Sandy Shuler, “Down the Path”
Andrea Bab, “Old White Barn, Little Log House and Lavender”
Paula Hansen, “Majestic Oaks and Lavender”
Lynn Wallace, “Invitation”
Tara Choate, “Wind over the Lavender”
Karen Shawcross, “Lavender Sentinels”

Red Ridge Sponsor Award: Diane Holland, “Leaflight”
Kristen Horn Coldwell Banker Patron Award: Dianna Shynne, “Path at Red Ridge”
Art Elements Patron Award: Karen Shawcross, “Halcyon Days”
Chehalem Cultural Center Sponsor Award: Elo Wobig, “Easy Ripples”
Blick Benefactor Award: Daemion Lee, “Lavender Afternoon”

Professional Division: Jennifer Diehl, “Sun Over the Field”
Open Division: Lorretta Lang, “Dundee Hills”

On Sunday my horse-but-not-art friend Debbie and I went up to Emerald Downs for a day of racing and to pick up my paintings from the Equine Art Show. To my job an amazement, “At the River” also received an honorable mention.

“At the River”

The Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association has not yet posted the list of award winners, and I am too lazy to type them all, but I thought I’d give you a peak at the top three award winners in the watercolor category so you can see how great they are.

It wasn’t a watercolor piece that I fell in love wit, however, but works in acrylic by Kathy Meyer (no available website.)
I didn’t get a picture of her award winner (frankly, it was my least favorite of her three), I did take some detail shots so I could admire her confidence of brushstroke.


As for racing, the day was insanely hot. The thermometer said 93 degrees, but it felt a lot hotter. It was so bad, in fact, that after a few races I had to go inside because I was getting woozy. Because of that, I didn’t get as much sketching done as I was hoping to do (mostly mark making) and my pictures are less inspiring than usual.

There are a few that may be turned into paintings, but not too many caught my eye.

I lost $4 and my friend lost $8. We are big spenders. However, I think we won because the traffic coming and going was spookily light. We found out why because on our way home, the area that people would use to turn off to the beach was backed up for miles.

These two big events are in the bag. I submitted my paintings to the American Academy of Equine Art (AAEA), so we’ll see there. I need to submit to Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO ) and Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) and I’ll have made it through the majority of my year goals. A couple more paintings for Paint the Town and it will be back to studio work.

I’d be even more excited if my studio had A/C.

Healthy Steps – Weeks 27 & 28

I’m home sick today. I either have really bad allergies or a small cold. I’m frankly not sure which, but my level of ability to be out in the world is diminished. As such, I’m trying to: 1) take naps (I’m up to 2), and 2) catch up on… well, everything.

Week 27 contained July 4 which happened to be on a Wednesday, so my WW class didn’t happen. I could have gone another day, but that would defeat laziness.

Week 28 rolled around and while I had been good, I was SHOCKED to finally hit my 10% goal: 38.2 pounds lost! There was a minor celebration that has morphed into a week-long epidemic of eating out and eating everything that was aided and abetted by an absurdly busy schedule that (I think) lead to this minor cold.

So… where does that leave me?

Tomorrow is weigh in day and I’ll take it. I need the check in to get back on track.

I’d like to report my goals have changed, but they haven’t.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 2 Frappuccinos per day

I will report that the last two have taken a hard hit in recent days and I’m going to work this week on adding a solid tracking schedule. I think, right now, that’s where I can benefit. You’ll also notice I changed the number of Frappuccinos back to 2. I haven’t really been going over that, but I think I need to set a small goal for the week.


Next, I’ll paint something in… any color except purple

For better or worse, the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival painting fest is over. A few artists (those who don’t have to report to work on Monday) may continue to paint for a few days, but for this toiling artist, lavender painting days are over.

On Saturday, I once again joined friend Sandra Pearce to go to my final destination: Red Ridge Farms. While they had a lovely lavender patch, it’s the view over the Yamhill wine country that will take your breath away.

Because I wanted to paint this, and there was no lavender in site, I decided to use my imagination and used artistic license to add some lavender to the scene.

On Sunday, I deliberately did not paint. Instead, I spent time in the studio tweaking and finishing my paintings before finally choosing the best three to frame to take to the show.

For example, I added gouache to finish out this painting.

I also adjusted the “bloom” on this painting.

As a recap, here is the list of possibles.

So, which ones did I choose?

Do you think I made the right choices?

More lavender (help, I’m turning purple)

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends. Happy Wednesday to my international friends (honestly, I only know one, but it seemed worthy of mention)!

As I said a few days ago, it’s all lavender painting, all the time around here, to try to have something to enter in the the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival. For my day off I went to Montainside Lavender with the usual gang.

While it was beautiful there, I just couldn’t really embrace the day. Maybe it was the overcast sky or the humidity. Even a chicken couldn’t get me inspired.

For whatever the reason, I think my paintings came out rather lackluster.

There are a few easy fixes, so they might not be “over” yet, but I think Sundays paintings came out better.

In other news, I framed and packed my final selections for the Equine Art Show July 12-15 days up at Emerald Downs.

Modern Charger

I’ll drive up Sunday to pick up the paintings and see the show.

While in my studio I did some more organizing; a few days ago I purchased another rolling drawer from Ikea to store and organize my unfinished paintings. So, now I have a place for paper and for paintings in various stages. I’ve never been so organized! This led to going through some of my old paintings and generally rearranging everything. But I’m feeling less stressed about the piles now, so that’s something.

I have another date to paint lavender this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday. I’m not sure I’ll make both, but it’s nice to have the time scoped out!

Lavender Gypsy

This weekend (and into next week) I’m in all-out painting mode to meet the demands of the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival and have three paintings to enter into the show July 12. The reception in July 13 (awards, etc.) with the paintings on display for the weekend. I hope I can entice a few of you to come out the Chehalem Cultural Center and check it out!

In the meantime, it’s all lavender painting, all the time. Luckily, a contingent of us watercolor artists has grouped together for encouragement, including my friend, Sandra Pearce. We huddle together among all the acrylic and oil painters and do our best to be intimidating without the benefit of turpentine.

Friday – Eagle Creek Lavender

I waffled around about going painting on Friday because it has been a long week and there were several other things I kind of wanted to do. Eventually, I packed up (poorly) and made my way out to Eagle Creek Lavender. Wow!

I got there, sat down, and realized I forgot my easel. After having such a good painting experience last weekend, I couldn’t bear the idea of painting without it, so I sketched.

I have every intention of painting these. The group has this place again next Saturday, so maybe I’ll be extra prepared.

Saturday – Barn Owl Nursery

Last year, my time at Barn Owl Nursery produced this award-winning painting.

So I was eager to go back.

I did two  paintings, with one showing more potential than the other. This one is perfectly fine…

But this one, called “against the siding” shows a lot more potential as a show entry. But it has a long way to go.

Sunday – Lavender Valley

Sunday’s spot was over two hours away, south of Hood River. Here’s why we went out to Lavender Valley

It almost looks too good to be true!

There were quite a few lavender aficionados as well as about a dozen painters. There was NO shortage of inspiration.

Again, I did two paintings.

It was a good weekend. We have dates to paint again on July 4, 7, and 8, so I’m hoping to improve on these initial starts!

Healthy Steps – Week 26

Well, I would love to report that I met my goal from last week of finally hitting 10% of my body weight lost. I can’t; instead I gained 5.4 pounds. Now, I didn’t eat badly enough for that to happen (though, obviously, there is some room for improvement.) My story has to do with asprin, PMS, and pretzels (a food I don’t like that much, but tend to overeat).

In addition, my struggles with… well, everything continue culminating with another medication change. Sigh.

I’d love to report I have shaken all this off and concentrated on my goals… but it’s not true. In fact, with three days to go until when I would normally weight in, I’m glad it’s a dark week and Wednesday is a holiday. That leaves 10 days to concentrate.

Easy goals

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

Hard goals

  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 1 Frappachino per day

I’m breaking my standby goals into two categories, because I feel fragile enough that doing all of them seems like a lot. I think the two easy should be okay, though it does take some dedication. Of the hard goals, I’m going to go for 2 days tracking and 1 Frappachino. That seems like enough.


Ankeny Hill (Paint the Town 2018)

As I have been threatening, it’s now official the start of plein air season. Next weekend I am getting together with Sandra Pearce and others to do the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival paint out. This weekend was the first time I was able to go to Artist in Action’s Paint the Town event.

I acted as “host” for myself and eight other paintings at a private residence adjacent to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. And it was STUNNING. As if the views weren’t dreamy enough, the flower gardens were enough to drool over.

In addition, they had a charming dog and a set of barnyard animals (sorry, no picture of the dog.)

I am proud of myself; I followed my new regime of sketching for a good long time before I painted.

While the gardens very very appealing, I eventually decided to paint the amazing view.

I need to pause here for a short commercial break.

I recently decided to purchase a real watercolor easel after at least three years of struggling through trying to use a cheap easel made in the 1960’s for oil painting, dragging around a table, and/or using my lap. Jerry’s Artarama had a Labor Day sale on plein air equipment, so I purchases a new easel and a little “bag” that attaches underneath to hold my water bin or anything else I need.

It is so rare in this day and age to purchase anything and be completely satisfied with it. It is even rarer to be more than satisfied.So I just want to say…


It fits a board. It tilts. It has a little tray to hold brushes. It has three levels of adjustment so you can make the legs “just so.” (I will admit that I was mentally challenged at first figuring how to it worked, but I’m sure we can all agree that’s just me.)

I am telling you… if you’re a plein air painter and haven’t purchased a real easel for it, RUN, don’t walk, to buy a real outdoor easel.

Back to our originally scheduled program.

I set up under the big oak tree (SHADE!) and sketched out what I saw in the distance.

This is not an impressive sketch, but I actually like that things are out proportion band overlapping oddly, because something about it made me realize that it was the patterns of overlap that I was interested in.
After making some notes about actual proportions, I sketched out the painting on the watercolor paper and painted away.

This still needs some studio adjustment, but I like where’s it at.

I fooled around a little while and thought about doing a garden piece, but I decided I could do that anytime, and shifted to beneath a different tree to work on a slightly different view.

I was very drawn to the solitary oaks and the way they sat against the long rows of the field. But I rushed the sketch…

… and it shows in the painting.

Again, this will go back to the studio and I think some adjustments can save it. The hay bales are too dark (who knew boxes were so tricky…) and I think some additional darks will help it.

All in all, it was a good start to official plein air season.


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