Recap of Door County Plein Air Invitational

If you have never been to the Midwest to experience a summer in Door County, WI., then you are in for a wonderful bounty of beauty and warm hearted hospitality. This was my second trip to Door County Plein Air Invitational and it was both challenging and easier than any other event I have participated in. The culture of the area is pretty laid back with plenty of scenery to last a lifetime of paintings, and good down-to-earth people. I feel like everyone is family when I am there.

The event boasts the "Best Artists", but honestly I just feel pretty special being there even if I was just a vacationer  This smoothly run Invitational offers collectors and art appreciators several opportunities to mix and mingle with the artists. An artist is required to sign up for 2 or more of the 4 days of pre-determined painting destinations where art appreciators can observe the work being created. They feature the Opening Welcome dinner gathering of artists, an evening paint out on the marina with Jazz and dessert, the highly anticipated Gala on Friday evening, a Saturday Quick Draw and live auction that is both exciting and exhausting, all wrapped up with an Open Door Celebration presented by the Peninsula School of Arts.

A work day can last up to 20 hours, while some days are slower paced.  The longest day I experienced was an early 4 am rise to catch a 5:15 sunrise in Bailies Harbor. The day ended at midnight at the local Bowling Alley with those artists who had enough steam to play. Add onto that the the handicap of a Pacific Time zone schedule, I was pretty spent to compete.  Regardless, sleep was a privileged commodity and I slept well.

My experience couldn't run more smoothly without the wonderfully generous hosts and sponsors of the event. I was lucky to be able to return to my hosts' home from last year, Ron and Lois, who were so accommodating, more than I have words to describe.

Here are a few photos from the Invitational.

Welcome Dinner and laughable moment.
Pictured lf to rt:  Featured Artists Greg LaRock, Charlie Hunter, 
Brenda Boylan (me), and Ked DeWaard.

First out of the gate, "Bea's Barn" 14x14" Oil on Panel

Observers Doug and Angie at the Edgewood Orchard Gallery.

My favorite piece, this tractor reminded me of Grandpa's
tractor rides on my family farm in Oregon.

"Blue Cheese 'Brella's" 12x16" Pastel

My finished pieces and me all dressed up for the Gala.
We get to choose 4 pieces for judging, up to 5 pieces if there is enough room.

Celebrating a wonderful event with Carol StrockWasson and esteemed judge Lori Putnam

The closing shot of the crew plus the awesome Peninsula School of Arts staff.

As competitive as plein air events can be, I just go with the expectation to paint my best, enjoy the camaraderie, and make memories full of new adventures. It is always a joy to be "invited" to a big event, sometimes overwhelming, but Door County Invitational sure does it right.



Intoxicated by Plein Air

Largely employed by the sunny weather, I have nearly abandoned my studio life.... and the electric eye. Alas, I take a moment to check in with you and the world beyond my measure. I love the warmer weather and its lure of adventure and color.  My journey is swift and so is this update.  Be well my friend, as I have not forgotten you.  


"An Alternate Route" 12x16" Pastel  Los Gatos Plein Air ©Brenda Boylan

"Brunch at Zeppo's" 12x16" Pastel  ©Brenda Boylan
Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts "Sponsor's Award"  

"Purple Penumbra" 16x20" Oil ©Brenda Boylan
Willamette Valley Lavender Festival Plein Air event, Honorable Mention


Painting Monterey County

"Waiting to Fish"  8x8" Oil  $650 framed

Well my friend, I can honestly say that the Monterey coastline and it's vicinity is practically the best place on earth for plein air painting! I know I've said that of Yosemite, and then Palm Springs desert, and then Hood River, OR., but every time I head out the door to plein air paint, there is always another beautiful scene that tops the prior spot. There is good reason to celebrate our country's scenic spots and all it has to offer us. 

I painted about 9 pieces in all, but I was not as productive due to a bit of gluten exposure which made it difficult for me to concentrate, but I recovered well enough to continue on my quest. My first piece, "Waiting to Fish" above, was a rather quick one at a boat repair shop out in Moss Landing. We spotted it on our drive south from the San Jose Airport. There was a crusty ol' man of the sea, Gordon, who quietly worked inside of this boat while I painted it with my friends. He was trying to fix his livelihood of lives, nestled amidst old shacks, fishing gear, ladders, and mechanical equipment of unknown sorts. Pretty interesting stuff indeed that I secretly promised I would return to paint again someday.

With painting friends Sergio, Michael, Anton, and Jennifer at Moss Landing.

One of the best spots of all was Garrapata. It is located south of Monterey some 15 miles or so, but beware, it is lined with poison oak!  If you ever lose your balance and fall into it while hiking the trail, then you better be prepared to bargain with yourself because this place is well worth the itch. Although I am not allergic to it, I still would have to say it's beautiful beyond measure. The color of the water was turquoise as it crashed upon the cliffs. The "gang" and I met up with pastelist Aaron Schuerr and his 13 year old son Jasper to paint as the sun rose.  The piece below was about my favorite piece from entire trip.

Garrapata Morning  12x16" Oil  $1,400 framed

Viewing north with artwork on the easel at Garrapata.

Garrapata Response 12x16"  Oil $1,400 framed

This was my second one that was just around the bend looking at the Pacific ocean. You might be able to see the shadows cast from the thick paint in the lower left of the piece.  

Painting in Garrapata with Jennifer Diehl

"Pastures of Heaven" 12x16"  Oil  $1,350

Then one morning we ventured out to Steinbeck country, to the Pastures of Heaven, from which he titled one of his pieces. It was so spectacular as the sun rose and kissed the green hills dotted with oaks. We had to quickly respond to the morning's brush of light with paint as it was a fleeting sight to see. While we painted Pastures of Heaven, we had a visitor who happened to be a freelance journalist, and so, shamefully, we got into the local paper. Yup, that's me, front and center!

Garland Eucs"  8x8" Oil  $650 framed

There were many more spots that were just as magical to share with you, but too many to share in one blog entry.  Sergio suggested this one place inland from Monterey called Garland Ranch.

Well my friend, that is about all I can write about tonight, so I'm going to sign off for now. I hope you enjoyed the journey.



Traveling with Oils or Pastels

"Asilomar Overlook"  9x12" Pastel

Painting at Point Lobos in 2014

I just can't sit still! My thoughts are all a jumble because of an upcoming trip to the most beautiful area I have ever seen and painted: California's Monterey Bay and it's vicinity. I guess I'd call it excitement!

Part of my excitement stems from all the things I have to remember to pack. I have to take into account all the painting supplies, it's portability and weight, and my destinations. Not to mention all the personal belongings I have to lug around just to take care of my personal health, but I digress. Did I mention clothes? Oh yeah...one probably shouldn't paint naked, but I would guess it's been done before, although I'd prefer clothes on. Yes, most definitely would, especially clothes for the type of weather.

So, to keep my mind from stressing out and overthinking the trip, I have made lists to keep me organized. Ahh, I can now relax a bit and just enjoy the process. Sometimes I may consider packing all of the items, but there may be times when I will need to edit because of the location, the method of travel, access to extra supplies and what I am willing to do without. It's kind of like camping but for artists.  Here is a list of items that I have put together for you to consider:

Oil Painting

Pochade Plein Air Box  I use an Open Box M
Brushes  I love using flats of various sizes and one very soft Bright Rosemary brush
Brush cleaner/Murphy's Oil
Brush holder
Tripod   I use a Manfrotto befree
Gamsol odorless solvent
Gloves  I use latex free gloves
Baby wipes
Plastic grocery bags for trash
Paper Towels with a bungee cord
Wet Panel Carrier. I use a RayMar panel carriers that are lightweight.
Backpack to hold all of this stuff with pockets for snacks
Oil paint.  I use Gamblin paints simply because they are made here in Portland and I want to support a local business, not to mention their quality to detail.  However, there are a few other brands that I like to explore the use of. I switch my palette out a lot as I love trying out new colors. I do like using a warm and cool color of each primary plus a few extra convenience colors. Here is a list of what I may pack for my palette:

Cad Yellow Light
Indian Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Cad Red Light
Quinacridone Magenta
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Blue
Bice  Vasari Brand
Phalo Green
Cedar  Vasari Brand
Raw Umber
Warm White  

Here is my Oil Painting Backpack all ready to go.

Pastel Painting

Open Box M Pochade Box. Check out my blog post on my modified box HERE.  Unfortunately, Open Box M no longer produces this pastel box like this due to it's extensive design.
Pastels   Half sticks in a range of of colors and values
Cotton rag
Gamsol solvent for dispersing pastel for an underpainting
Carb Othello Pastel pencils  Neutral colors work best for sketching out the composition
Pencil sharpener
2" wide masking tape
2  1" wide foam brushes
Baby wipes
Latex free gloves or hand barrier cream
Sanded Pastel    Paper mounted to foam core, museum board or gatorboard  I like using Uart's 320 grit paper in a light beige tone.
Glassine   Tape to the backside of the mounted pastel paper as a protective cover for the painting.
Panel carrier  I two pieces of cardboard taped together like an envelope

Miscellaneous Items

Bug Spray
Sunscreen  I like the spray on kind
Clip on Mini Lights for nocturne painting
Umbrella  I use a BestBrella or the larger Shade Buddy
View Finder
Sketch book and Sharpie Marker
Hazardous Materials Disclaimer Sheets for Gamsol Oil painting products
Folding chair

So that's my list of goodies, and somehow they all have to fit into my backpack. Sometimes I will bring both mediums and that is what I did when I flew out to Door County, WI last year.  It's a painter's challenge in space conservation at best, but I think I've got a good handle on it.  Anyway, like I said, some of the items listed may be left back at home due to what I am willing to do without. After all, it's artist camping at it's best.  

So since I am on the subject of plein air, I have announced a new plein air workshop specifically for pastels.  Pastels en Plein Air will be June 25-28th in the Portland, OR area.  Here are some specifics:  

Fee:  $350
Dates:  June 25-28, 2015
Location:  Greater Portland area
Time:  9:00-5:00 pm

For more details about the workshop, click HERE.




"Bridal Veil Falls" 16x12" Pastel

My family and I took a drive out to Yosemite for a much needed Spring Break. We drove from Portland, OR to Mariposa, CA in about 12 hours, and were so glad to be stable in our new Hideaway by 5 pm. I rented us a place through AirBnB and it was delightful and clean, and it accommodated all we needed for rest from our daily outings.  Once we arrived in Mariposa, we gathered food items from the market for snacks and quick morning b-fasts for early starts out to the park. Yosemite was about a 35 minute drive from our Hideaway, and was scenic with bolders getting larger as we approached the Park. Our first day-trek out to Yosemite, we took a longer route that rides circuitously through Oakhurst and wound through the hills and entered up to the Tunnel View. I waisted no time to set up and paint.

This photo does no justice to the depth and breath of this view. It is a must see in real life!

While I thought my family would take this time to hike the trail above the viewing area while I painted, they instead decided to watch people watching me. I thought they were nuts as it's just tourism at it's best, with nearly every language spoken at the rim. I heard what I believed was Japanese, Romanian, and Swedish, but what the best part was when a bunch of fun loving Italians sang a wonderful spirited song right next to me while I painted. Oh, I love this job!

The Valley Below  12x16" Pastel

View of Yosemite Falls, midmorning, upon completing the piece.

Yosemite Falls  12x12" Pastel

Painting at Mirror Lake

Many people are curious and stop to ask about my painting. Some take photos of me, and when they do, I ask if they would please share them with me. It's not always possible to get a good shot of me doing what I love, but this one rocks! The photographer is Carlyn K and we connected through our imagery. You can see her beautiful work HERE.

Mirror Lake  11x14" Pastel


A First Friday showing...

For all you Portland area art lovers and friends of the arts, I wish to share with you an event on this First Friday of March. It will be a warmer than usual kind of night, no doubt, to be out so I'm inviting you to come out to enjoy an intimate showing of work at Gideon St. Studios for the evening.

Here are the details:

Friday March 6th, 2015
5:00-8:30 pm

Gideon Street Studios
1212 SE Gideon Street
Portland, OR
Mapquest:  http://mapq.st/1BFWv5P

Hope to see you there!


Mark-making &More Glass Jars, 9x8

"Glass Jars, 9x8" Pastel on sanded paper

Don't you just love texture in paintings? It makes a 2 dimensional image move forward with depth that you just couldn't get with a drawing. Oil painters have the advantage of impasto application, but what about pastelists? Since it's a soft pigment it just can't make a thick and juicy mark! But pastels offer a wonderfully expressive mark-making quality that oil painters just can't match. Mark-making can produce incredible results so unique that each artist's style begins to shine through.  I was first attracted to pastels because of the mark-making I saw in other accomplished artists such as Sally Strand and Sandra Bushell.

Last week in my pastel class, we worked on mark-making again (glass ball jars seem to work for this exercise) and in my demo (above) I used this linear technique. This vertical mark-making is actually quite exciting to look at!

detail shows the many layers of vertical marks made to create shape.

Depth and shade were rendered with a thick and thin mark with ink using both crosshatching and swirly marks. 
Reminiscent of the unique designs of our fingerprints.

Perhaps my interest with mark-making began when I was a kid.  Back then, I was fascinated with the dollar bill and how it was illustrated. Hours would be spent looking through a magnifying glass at George Washington, while trying to figure out how to make a drawing with lines just like those on the bill. Little did I know I'd be doing something similar in pastel as an adult.

The variety of mark-making is endless and is up to you and your imagination. So next time you hit a big slump with your work and are feeling like your work is getting boring, try making some marks. Try using thick and thin pressure with your pastels to garner wide or thin marks. Use color variations that can be optically mixed, or even different shapes like swirls, dots, or swipes of color to render beautiful work.


Swift Crossing, 20x16"

"Swift Crossing" with detail, 20x16" Pastel

Back when I went on my adventure to New York City last September, I walked what felt like 20 miles on the streets with my camera at the ready. There was activity and color that would last me a lifetime of painting inspiration, but the deciding factor must offer a decent composition. Here, "Swift Crossing" has that typical "U" shaped composition so characteristic of any street scene lined with buildings. I like to think some compositions are much like the alphabet, offering up the "S" curve, "L", "V" or "T" to name a few. It was the people crossing the street in what reminded me of the "Beatles" album cover "Abbey Road" that attracted me the most of this scene. I worked with the color a lot, having first used filters on Instagram to see where I could push the colors and mood. I ended up with a more intense and darker look than the original image, I think it works. Thoughts?


Lessons From the Easel

It's been 2 months since I last posted and I am soooo sorry for not keeping up with you, my dear blogging friends. It seems that there are just not enough hours in the day to keep my schedule flowing smoothly.  I have so much to share with you but I just can't carve the time out for writing out my thoughts as frequently as I'd first set out. I have decided that I absolutely must make time for organizing my business matters now so I can blog and be more productive at the easel.  I am making a small dent, but the list goes on. Ugh. I just wanna paint!

Well, I have been painting! Here are some demos from my weekly pastel class that I have been teaching at the Oregon Society of Artists. The class has been loads of fun. The students come away learning plenty, making it very rewarding for all of us. The weekly classes run 7 weeks in a series, and we are in the midst of the last series before the plein air season starts back up in earnest. Here are a few demos I painted to illustrate the versatility of pastel. Some demos are very quick, while others take a tad longer.

Limited strokes...

Timed 5 minute paintings...

Underpainting demo...

There is so much to teach when it comes to pastel because it is so incredibly versatile. I do hope to make my workshops available to regions beyond Portland. Perhaps a workshop in a sunny state or another country might be in my future? Where would you like to attend a pastel workshop?  Well, anyway, enough about workshopping.

I have also been hunkering down for the last 5 months in my studio painting large with oils for a March show in Palm Springs, CA. at Brian Marki Gallery. The show was inspired from a plein air journey to the Coachella Valley last April, (read Blog post here) and now I have a place to share them. The group show "Portland Paints the Desert" will feature Portland area artists Anton Pavlenko, Thomas Kitts, Michael Orwick, Scott Gellatly, and myself.  Honestly, I haven't painted this large since 1988, so it was a stretch for me, especially since oil painting is not my forte', but I did it and am really proud that I stretched a bit. "Desert Wash" was the largest piece I have ever painted, well, if you aren't counting mural work.

Well, there you have 2 months in a nutshell...plus then some. I'm hoping the next time I post that it will be sooner than later so you can follow along in some measure on this artistic journey.


"Desert's Last Breath" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas

"Skirts" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas

"Desert Wash" 36x38" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas


Mark Making

"Just for Jelly" crop

Been teaching a 7-week pastel series at Oregon Society of Artists and it sure has been a LOT of fun! I'm mid-way through the second series of classes and have one more that begins in late January. This one demo, above, was on mark-making to demonstrate that all sorts of marks can be employed to get interesting broken color as well as providing emotion like no paint brush could. I used a dizzy-like swirly mark on Wallis Belgian Mist sanded paper with Ludwig pastels.

"Swirly Jars" 12x9" sold

The last class on pastels begins Jan 27 and runs through March 10, 2015.  Classes held at Oregon Society of Artists on Tuesdays at 9:00am - 12:00.  Only room for 9 students. Interested?  Get your answers HERE.


How to be a Cover Girl, well sort of...

I would've never expected it, but my piece "Stopping Point" was selected for the December 2014 cover story for the Pastel Journal.  I can now honestly say I am a Cover Girl, but not the kind that renders up images of a 13 year old with Photoshopped lips, but I digress.

"How did that happen?" one would ask.

Well, it all began a few years back, I think it was back in 2010, when I met a journalist named Angie Young at a plein air event showcase.  Our discussion revolved around the challenges of being an artist with a young family, like how can one have an art career and still be a Mom? We continued our conversation for some time and then I hired her to write a story of these very challenges with the intention of getting coverage in an artist magazine. The story took a circuitous route, but we finally agreed on the direction of the story. I paid the writer, after discovering that there was a procedure process from which we did not follow, and I thought the submission would be filed. I submitted the story anyway, along with several images to support the story to The Pastel Journal. Then I waited.....

Then on a summer day, I think it was July or August of this year, I received an email from the Editor of the Pastel Journal, Anne Hevener, that she had some of my images on file and was wanting to know if I'd like to be interviewed for an article on my work.  Are you kidding me?  "Why YES I would" I replied.  So I was contacted by journalist Michelle Taute and we set a date for a phone interview. She dove right into the story with some great questions about my fascination with urban scenes and my "how" of pastel painting.  She wrote the article as if she lived inside my mind, clearly writing my thought process without any hesitation. 

The article was polished with accompanying imagery and then I was able to review it for accuracy and content. Then sometime in September, Anne Hevener informed me that one of my images was being considered for the cover and I had to be hush hush about it.  Woah! How cool would that be?  I asked,  "What are the deciding factors for a cover image?" Apparently the Art Director , Marketing and other important decision makers have the challenging job of selecting the cover image based on interest, sales potential and color. I'm sure there is a lot more involved with this editorial decision than one could imagine. Anyway, it seems to be a pretty tough job, much like a jury for a national competition.  

HOW Do you get into a magazine?

So you may be asking "How do I get noticed by an editor or staff writer for an article on my work?" Well, I'm not an expert here but I can offer some ideas that may work, some of which I employed over the years.  First of all you have to ask yourself "Why do you want coverage"  Do you create something interesting that is unconventional and can be interesting and new to the readers? Or do you wish to be "famous" just so that Mom and Dad have bragging rights over coffee and donuts?  What is your motive?  Magazines find artists and subject matter in a number of ways. Participation in National shows comes to mind, perhaps your online social media can assist in name recognition, but did you know that most magazines have a process of inquiry?  Publications typically post the guidelines inside the cover page. Sometimes a magazine may support a National arts organization, giving the magazine first opportunity to see who the rising stars are.  You can find most of your magazine inquiry information on the net these days. Here is one magazine submission process clearly posted for The Artist's Magazine.   Or check out Empty Easel on the topic HERE

So there you have it!  What month will you be? 



7-week Pastel series at OSA

Demo of alcohol wash underpainting

The Oregon Society of Artists has asked me to teach pastel on an ongoing basis so I have put together a 7-week series that runs continually until April of 2015. I'm in the final stretch of my first 7-week series and it sure has been a wonderful class. I'm finding that teaching is incredibly rewarding. I think it may become a little bit addicting. So, the next class series will begin Nov 25th and end on Jan 6th.  There is still room for 2 more students, so if you have been looking for a weekly pastel class, this may be your time.  Check out the info HERE.

Above is one of my demonstrations using an alcohol underpainting. It always makes for a lose wash that gives interesting variations and twists for me. We have studied mark-making, values, color theory, and we still have a few classes left to work out a solvent underpainting as well as a few quick timed pieces to get the juices going.