Still Making Art

Life Gets Better as I Get Older

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New Day 29 – A Little Humor

Or…what to do when you don’t have a big enough vase.


I am always on the lookout for interesting greens to use in a still life. Yesterday I was meeting a friend in Peterborough for coffee, and parked in front of a public building of some sort – perhaps private, I’m not sure. I really wasn’t looking at the building. What I saw was two large piles of greenery. The two bushes that had been growing on the front lawn had been cut down to the ground. Their beautiful limbs lay in two heaps. For a moment I was a bit stunned at the butchery. And then I was attracted to the beautiful gnarly branches and budding greens. I went over and helped myself. They seemed so alive and healthy, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would have cut them down.

I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s boxwood, or a relative.

I popped it in my car and went off to meet my friend.

It’s funny how the size of things is dwarfed by the big outdoors. When I got the branch home I needed to put it in water because I’m not ready to set up a still life yet and I want it to stay as alive looking as possible. I dug out my biggest vase, but as you can imagine, it was not going to do. So…after considering my canning pot (still too small), the light bulb went off.

The trick now is to remember, before I point a visitor to the bathroom, that it’s occupied.

But don’t you agree that it’s a really lovely branch?

I’m not sure how I’m going to incorporate it into a still life – it being so tall and all. I suppose I could just paint it all by itself. I can see a nice tall painting.

Of course I could paint it as it is, residing in its current receptacle. But that doesn’t really appeal to me, though given the way art is these days, it might sell well! When I sent the above photo to my daughter, her fiance remarked, “It’s art!”



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New Day 27 – It’s Coming Along

I seem to be able to paint a little faster these days. Plus, not having a day job helps!

Here’s my current progress.

Progress 2-14-18

You’ll notice that the “white” table cloth so far has not a spot of plain old white. There’s a mix here of blues, yellows, greens, off whites, purples etc. It’s just magic. I have always loved snow scenes where this amazing mix of colors say “snow”. If I were a landscape painter, I’d be doing snow scenes all the time.

I still do struggle though, and these mushrooms got wiped off in full before I finally trusted the process and kept on putting colors down in the hopes that they’d start looking like mushrooms eventually.

Here’s a closeup of what I see when I’m perched close to the canvas. You can imagine how one can only see a mess, and have doubts that one has got it right.

close up

Getting the right colors can be a real challenge as well. Just look at all the different colors in that one mushroom. If you painted the whole thing just one or two colors or tones, it would never look like a real mushroom. One has to fight all the time with the mind that says something is green when it’s more grey and purple and many different tones to boot.

I’m working with the limited drawmixpaint palette, which really teaches you to see. When I started out, and before I found Mark Carder, I had tubes of just about every color there is – well at least twenty or so. Because I wasn’t able at first to really see the color properly, I wasted so much paint mixing and mixing trying to get what I thought I saw. [Anyone want a lot of oil paints? (Mostly Windsor&Newton artist’s oils.) Let me know! I’ll give you a good deal.]

I should be done in a day or two.





New Day 23 – No Luck With Loose Painting

Here’s what’s happened on my canvas over the last few days.

Jan 30 progress

As you can probably tell, I was not successful with my plan to use a larger brush and create a looser looking painting. My mind just doesn’t seem able to go there. When I hold a larger brush, I cannot conceive of how I would make the greenery, with all it’s fine sprigs, with larger blobs of paint. I just can’t do it. In fact, I painted all the greenery with a 00 brush – the smallest I have. The back ground was done with an 8 which is just a tad larger than the brushes most oil painters use for the whole thing. I just don’t get it. But I know the great painters wouldn’t paint it this way.

Mostly I’m just getting in the colors and some shapes at this point. I’ll have lots of adjustments to make once I get more of the greenery filled in. I needed to get some of the black background done in order to gauge my colors and tone.

So far I’ve only wiped off a few spots, and am holding out hope that it will all come together in the end.

I’m a slow painter, and I have to get up and take a break after 20 minutes or so.

Here are my brushes.

my brushes

More to come.


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New Day 22 – Back to Oil Painting – YAY!

I can barely believe it has been eight – that’s right, EIGHT months, since I painted in oils. I’ve been making art of one kind and another, so at least I’ve been doing creative things. BUT…I had no idea what a void there was until I finally cleaned up from my last project, put up the canvas I had prepared months ago, sat down and began mixing colors. WOW! I felt this enormous peaceful wave much like the joy I feel when I return home after being away. This certainly makes me feel that this is what I should be doing – even though I have enjoyed the other activities.

Making a start

Making a Start

I took the photo (actually 4 prints put together) months ago. It’s been pinned to the board collecting dust. The fact that I had already prepared my canvas and made my sketch made it very easy to get stuck in again.

I’m starting with the most difficult (for me) section – the greenery. I am trying to paint at a distance and to be more suggestive than exact. I’m hoping I don’t have to wipe it all off and start again. We will see.

My set up

My setup

This is my small studio. That black cloth gets lowered across the window when the sun is pouring in (south facing), otherwise it’s half open for the plants.

I perch on that child’s wooden high chair while I paint which makes it easy to stand and move away to asses what I’ve done.

On the right I have all my tools. That black thing is my color checker built using the drawmixpaint design video. If you’ve followed this blog you’ll know that I now use laminate to check most of my colors. But every once in a while I find I need to use the old checker.


Tools of the trade

See – when I start out my palette isn’t to bad. It will only take a few days for it to become a mess.

Those small round jars contain my brush dip (see genevafineart). The dip comes in a large bottle from which I dispense a small amount into these little artichoke jars. If you have not yet discovered drawmixpaint and their products at genevafineart, I very heartily recommend them. The brush dip allows you to walk away from painting without having to clean the brushes. I’m not sure if it works for all oil paints, but it does with the Geneva oils which I use, and for which the dip was designed.

Today when I was putting dabs of my Geneva paints on my palette, I made a discovery.  I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. The paint tubes have two ways of opening them, one using the flip top, and the other unscrewing the whole top to reveal a tiny hole through which the paint is squeezed. I will confess that I had not been really happy with the tubes because the caps and my fingers were always getting paint covered when squeezing the paint out. BUT today I was using a new tube, and had to unscrew the top to peel off the seal. DUH…I said to myself, I should be unscrewing the whole top to squeeze out the paint rather than using the flip open method. Instant clean process! I pass this on just in case there are others a little slow to make this discovery!

My palette is a Masterson palette box. I originally purchased one for acrylic painting which was fabulous – for those of you using acrylics.  It keeps your paints moist for days! Then I purchased one for oils. What I then did was have a piece of glass cut to fit the box, and under the glass I placed brown paper from a paper bag. I now use both boxes for oils. One is too small for most paintings. The glass, naturally, makes cleanup with a razor blade extremely easy. I just put the air tight lid on after painting, dip my brushes, and walk away. So easy!

One more note: I often recommend sites or products – NOT from any affiliation, personal relationship, or for financial gain. I do so simply to spread the word on places and things which I think are excellent.



Day 19 – Painting Nuts is NUTS!

Do yourself a favor and do NOT put a bowl of nuts in your still life. I spent hours – and I mean many hours – painting these dumb nuts in my still life. I still haven’t captured them to my liking, but I’m moving on to the cookie jar.

One reason I shouldn’t do this is that I have all the browns already on my palette, and should probably paint the single ones on the table top before I move on, but I can’t bear it at the moment. What will happen is that when I do get around to painting them I won’t remember where the blotches are that I used for the nuts before, or I will have mixed them into something else when I get there. Still – I will do the cookie jar in the interests of  painting sanity.

Messy Palette

This is my messy palette. You can see there’s not much room for mixing new colors, so those browns will morph into something else. Either that or I’ll wipe the whole thing clean and start over, which I’ve already done several times on this painting.

I have never been able to keep a tidy palette. For me it’s like what they say about a desk, a messy desk is a sign of intelligence. It is true, however that the messier the palette, the harder it is to find the blotch you just used. Okay…so where was that spot I was using?

I am really happy with the blue bottle.

Before I began painting in oils, I thought it would be nearly impossible to paint glass, but in fact glass is one of the easiest things to paint. The blotches of light reflections instantly turn the opaque image into transparent glass. It’s just a matter of getting the colors and tones right, and then add the dots of light reflection, and presto – magic!

This is what I love about painting – the magic of it all.

I’ve taken to getting up around 4:30 am on the days when I work full time, to get some good hours in painting. My job isn’t terribly demanding on my left brain, so I get through the day on the job pretty well. Then I come home, feed me and my animals, and then off to bed with a book. I usually fall asleep before I’ve read one page – LOL.

Yesterday I picked up my book and found I just couldn’t remember who one of the characters was. I had to flip back through to sort out who was who. The hazards of getting up at 4: am.

So…here’s where I am at the moment.

Two Candles 5-8-17


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Day 18 – A Lot of Painting and a Lot of Wiping Off

Whew! I did a lot of painting these past few days. I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off from work. I find having a nice stretch of free time is my best time for painting. So…I worked away.

This was a difficult section for me. I often find that the shadows on cloth are the hardest for me to get the color and the tone right. I did a ton of wiping off and doing over, and lots of using my color checker (see Usually I’m off because my tone is way too light. And for a cloth that’s basically yellow, the dark shadows are primarily green! And..there’s a lot of subtle colors based on the cool light that’s coming in from the left. In the end I solved my problem when I realized I needed a touch of veridian. The white looks off because the rest of the painting isn’t there yet. Of course I could end up having to tone it down – you never really know if it right until you get the neighboring paint down. But I think I’ve got the hardest bits done now.

FYI – I’ve opened a very basic website – primarily just a gallery – which is, if you are interested:

Here’s my progress to date.

Two Candles - 5-3-17


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Day 15 – Painting Challenges

Some days when I paint I am nervous the whole time. Today was one of those days, painting the candlelight. One really does not need to be nervous as one can always just wipe the day’s painting off completely and start again. I nearly did this with the candles today. It was a big struggle to get the candle glow right. I’m still not sure it’s correct, but I’m letting it sit for now. Until the body of the painting is done, one doesn’t know for sure if the tone right. I also find it hard to get the colors right. But…we’ll see.

Here’s the latest progress. The black is wet and reflective in some places, and dry in others. This gives a weird blotchy effect which is remedied once the painting is dry and varnished.

Two Candles 4-19-17