Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Makes A Persons Art?

Daisies in Grand Teton National Park
I started painting in oils about four or so years ago. I was very uneasy with oils since my first attempts, by myself, usually ended up with me making a great deal of "mud." Mud being how you made a mess by putting all the colors together as you tried to paint a scene.

I had used acrylics but could not get the kind of depth I wanted. Watercolors were interesting and in fact I had used them for years. In watercolor you go from light to dark. Oils demand that you go from dark to light. It sounds odd but it does work.

Using an underpainting in acrylic...magenta in fact, was an accident. My first teacher loved early California impressionists and that was the color (in oil) they used. It is an amazing color to use and now and then I use it still. I bought a tube of magenta and failed to notice it was acrylic. A fellow student, herself far more skilled with watercolor, said go ahead use it. It won't hurt the oils at all. So I did the under paintings in magenta acrylic paint and realized the oils on top didn't care, the color could peak through in all its glory and the colors were not affected in any way. No mud. ALL of my paintings now are under painted in acrylic paint.

I painted but was never satisfied and struggled through that first session. I was learning two things at once...painting landscapes something I had always avoided, and using oil paints.

By the second session I had mastered not making mud and could now and then even paint a decent tree. It wasn't easy because I tried to paint each leaf. Finally I learned that masses of paint applied in a random way could give the impression of leaves. My first successful tree was done with another teacher in a four hour class. In fact I improved on his painting and have the painting on my office wall today. During my last class session, I did a small lake scene that no one else would touch. I finished in 45 minutes. That included the underpainting and oil on top. Those watching me finally said, "Stop, stop. Don't do another thing. Go show the teacher." Stepping back I realized it was exactly right. Soft realism, a style that I really hadn't aimed for at all.

I started painting plein air about two years ago. That changed my style even more. I realized that what you saw in life and what was captured on camera were very different. I was heading towards realism and I couldn't seem to stop it. Each painting seen up close seemed very loose, almost sloppy, but when viewed a few feet away had a startling realism I never intended. At a glance people thought I had a photograph, not a painting. I didn't seem capable of doing anything else. It wasn't what I wanted at all.

Then I did a sunflower painting. The photo stared at me on my craft work bench for a year. I finally decided to paint it. It came out very different than what I envisioned. A large sunflower flanked by smaller buds. People either loved it or hated it. Looking for a companion piece, I decided to paint a scene I saw on vacation. Wild daisies on a path to view the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

Again, it was under painted in dark green acrylic on a peach tinted canvas. The fence is almost photo realistic but the daisies flutter across the scene in an impressionistic style that oddly enough works. A friend loved it and said that it was definitely my own unique style. A kind of realism and fantasy combined.

I guess the point of all this is that we can't always know where we are heading. There are just times you paint, or write or create music and "go with the flow." You may not know where you are headed but the journey is never dull!

Thank you for visiting! If you are interested in a variety of birdhouses or crafts, photography or one of a kind paintings, please be sure to check out this store on a regular basis at Be sure to tell your friends, artists or anyone about this blog and my and refer them to my blog!,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Plein Air Painting

White Fence, the glory of plein air painting
Last Friday, after a few weeks away from it, I went painting with my Friday Plein Air group in Descanso Gardens. We knew it was open but hadn't heard if the gardens were damaged very much from the windstorm several weeks before. Things seemed pretty normal. Here and there a branch was missing but otherwise they managed to come through the storm in good shape.

As beautiful as the day was however, we were under another strong wind alert and it was cool and blustery at times. No one wanted to venture very far into the park and within a short distance from the entrance all of us found places to paint. In fact, I have a few natural grains of dirt and leaves embedded in my painting. Luckily this is one of the first scenes you see!

There were five of us and at the end of our three hour session we usually meet and compare, suggest and check out what the others have done. Its amazing just how different our paintings are! Four of us were literally within sight of each other and had painted totally different scenes. I am always amazed at this. Or the fact that we could ALL paint the same scene and how different it turns out.

I found an old fence, some interesting trees and a few early camellias in a setting that seemed to beg for an audience. I took my cheapie canvas board, dosed the thing with layers of sap green and roughly tried to create an outline of the darker areas. Unusual for me was using oil. I have become fond of under painting in acrylic with a strong, contrasting color and then letting that color peek through the oils. I don't like the contamination of the underpainting with the oils and that has been a wonderful solution. This time however, it seemed to be working. I could put the fence and tree trucks over the background in thick strokes that easily covered up the green oil paint.

The one thing about painting outdoors is that your eye sees differently. You instinctively place objects and colors that you want to see that often have no relationship to what is there.

One of the group used a strong burgundy red background and painted an arbor like fence with only a few leaves left. She dappled the ground and background with colors that were not there and yet and it all worked!  I was being pretty true to colors I was seeing but realized I liked her use of additional colors, colors that may not have been there but added a zest, a personal vision of what she saw.

I always take photos of the scene I paint and when I opened those photos up on my computer, was amazed at what the camera saw and what I had seen. I encourage everyone to move outdoors and paint. It brings a clarity of vision that no photo can truly capture.

Thank you for visiting! If you are interested in a variety of birdhouses or crafts, photography or one of a kind paintings, please be sure to check out this store on a regular basis at Be sure to tell your friends, artists or anyone about this blog and my and refer them to my blog!,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Magic of Varnish

Since I have been oil painting but a few years, I really haven't painted anything that I wanted to save except maybe one or two paintings over the years. Then, late last year and this year I have come more and more into my own style, one that I like and have created paintings I want to keep (as opposed to scraping over and reusing the canvas), or worse thrown away.

I have given several paintings away and sold a couple and warned the individuals that they will have to bring them back so I can varnish them. And to tell you the truth, until I did, they were meaningless expressions heard from teachers.

Wednesday I finally varnished a few paintings. I have several for sale on and it was time to protect them in case they were sold plus several others. After the first painting was coated I was stunned. The shiny and dull layers, strokes and paint that didn't seem to mean much suddenly came into focus and the paintings seemed to come to life! I was stunned.

My first waterlily painting, one of my favorites, had become rather dull and in effect lifeless when it was brought over to be varnished. I even doubted that this was really worth having. Where had that beautiful painting gone? After the first strokes of the varnish, the water seemed to come to life with a depth that the original strokes tried to achieve. Suddenly, there they were. The proud owner stood back and said, "Look at the water! It shimmers." The entire painting shimmered and looked again much like it did when it was painted. In fact, it looked better.

So, if you are a painter, of any media, I would encourage you to protect them. You will be surprised at just how amazing they will look at the moment you seal them and for the years they will be hung on the walls. It was an important moment for me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Do YOU Decide Colors

I am sure that every artist looks at a blank something and in his minds eye tries to decide how to color it...paints, welding, words, notes, images. What do you do? What do you say? To make matters worse, if you are trying to sell that same item, how do you describe it?

Rummaging through my more than ample stock of projects to be, I came across this sleigh. It was blank...unfinished wood. Looking at it, I thought it might be fun to try a winter theme and just not Christmas. This way it could be used before AND after the holidays. But...what scene? A traditional motif of Pennsylvania Dutch? Trees? A village? Browsing through some art magazines I saw a variety of snowmen. Viola! There was my theme but, what colors? Can you create a wintry happy scene? Brurrrrr. Its cold outside. Is it ever fun?

Growing up in Portland, OR, you were used to rain. Other than a monsoon, we kids were always outside. Snow was a treat however, and I remembered the fun we had going up and down the big hill a block away. When we got blue we went home to hot chocolate and a warm fire. So, with those memories in mind I figured the snowmen would love that cold.

Choosing colors is a balancing act though. I put the paints in front of me and tried to decide. I finally settled, after much moving and comparing that two cold blues separated by a pale sage green would do the trick. Pine trees covered in snow framed the snowmen. Suddenly it fell together. But it doesn't always do that.

So the question remains, how do YOU decide colors? I would be interested in finding out! Comment here or email me at 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Is In the Air

It seems to me that the madness that we associate with Christmas is lacking this year...or is it just me? When I went to the post office yesterday to mail my handmade (and frustrating) Christmas cards this year, there wasn't a soul waiting in the post office. NOT ONE PERSON!

If guess there, in a nutshell, we know why the post office is going broke. Where are the packages? Why are there lines of people in line?

Maybe they are buying online and having it shipped directly. I sure hope they are! I could use some purchases to lift my spirits! Remember, Krugsstudio on

Will they come?

I think the hardest thing for artists of any stripe is to know if they create will they find an audience. I have come to realize this very fact after years of painting things...birdhouses, bisque figurines, plates and boxes even a platter or three.

Then I added another art...oil painting. Oil painting With landscapes. The first set of classes were, well to be generous, interesting. I learned not to make mud. That those trees have LEAVES. Shadows are not black but are tones of darkness.

Your vision changes. Your eyes become sharper, you become more focused not necessarily on what is there but what you "see." This became very apparent the day I started a painting of a koi pond. A lovely clear day suddenly darkened. First sprinkles, then a downpour. To my horror the oils were washed right off my canvas leaving only the acrylic under painting in place.

When I got home I printed out a photo of what I was painting only to realize what I saw and what the camera saw were very different. Who was right? I had to return again to work on that painting.

It is that unique vision that separates all artists. It is this same vision that either attracts or repels its audience.

Again, will they come? Most of us never know.