How are you doing during this unrest and an unworldly pandemic? It seems so long since I have seen a familiar face within 3 feet of me, sharing a good laugh, feeling the summer heat together while outside in the July air. Personally, I have noticed that my way has been negotiating with my will, and I'm trying to find balance with what is more important: whether I stick to my old routine (which has been cut short), or just relax a little more ... and take another nap. It seems that my motivation is slipping, so I figured I would Google "getting motivation" and this is the first thing that popped up:
Choose goals that interest you
Find things that interest you within goals that don't
Make your goal public
Plot your progress
Break up your goal
Don't do it alone.
Everything looks attainable, but there is one item on this list that is really challenging, and that is #8. Don't do it alone? REALLY? It's the one ingredient we all need the most in these unprecedented times...and that is togetherness! So, reach out to one another, volunteer, write a love letter, send a long lost friend a text or email, or better yet...an overdue phone call. I love to hear from friends from time to time to rekindle that togetherness we need right now. And if you are motivated enough, reach out to me with a photo of you and a beloved, or perhaps with you and your favorite piece of art. Let me cheer you on so that you and I will know we are not alone!
#8 Don't do it alone.
By the way...in the course of having painted with either pastel or with oil paints, I have figured there is a one in 30 chance my easel will fall over. I'm still smiling, still grateful to those who help me out, and laugh when the numbers are in my favor.
"Delight of the Dreamer" 12x12" Pastel on sanded paper, $1,650 Available through The Mission Gallery
Enter into any room that is flooded with filtered light, and you might sense your mood shifting, and perhaps your eyes might even begin to moisten. For me, I am always in touch with my senses, especially my sight, and perception of how people relate to one another. It's almost funny to say this, but to me, I am on the observation deck of life. A few years back, I came upon this scene inside the Swan House at the Atlanta Historical Museum after a thunderous Spring downpour. Upon entering into this one particular room at that very moment, I felt a compelling sense of elevation by the light that was wrapping around this young girl. It evoked feelings of hope fueled by anticipation, curiosity, and dreams. And now, now more than ever, this piece seems more poignant. One might question if she is isolated in an empty room along with an empty chair to sit, be still and think, or she is waiting for good news that will bring brighter days ahead?. Whether we look at life through either a kaleidoscope lens or a magnifying glass, we still take light in. So what do you see in this piece? I'd love to know!
Life as we know it sure has taken us for a loop or two. I don't know about you, but I am beginning to sense that we are living in the midst of a paradigm shift. How we communicate, shop, move about, learn, and conduct social gatherings has suddenly been realigned. I want to know if you have had to conduct a video phone call...in your jammies? Or been shopping for that needed necessity, but too nervous to enter into a grocery store so you just do without? What about those loved ones who are, or have suffered from illness? I'm sure you know what I mean. Drive-up pharmacies, facial masks, drive-thru coffee shop kiosks, binging on news headlines, and online shopping are now taking a front seat. As for me and my creative family of artist friends, we have had to cancel all art gatherings, gallery events, and classes have had to be re-imagined...OVERNIGHT! BAM! ZOOM!
Let's count the benefits of a solitary, home-bound life: families engaging in conversation at the dinner table over a creatively home-constructed mash-like concoction of leftovers. Thoughtful conversations with loved ones, a closer, more united humanity, and honoring life with the help of heroic medical professionals. I imagine we are getting to know each other on a deeper level. Our weaknesses and strengths are exposed by this current reality, making us all take a second look at what life just is. Our environment is cleaner without all the consumption of fuel, with clear skies and fresh rain. I sure hope you can see some of the good in all of this. As for my creative life? I am working with more intention and giving deeper thought to what and why I paint...in the peace and safety of my solitary studio.
By the way... in the above image of the large painting,I see a reflection of a tree trunk upon the surface of a body of water with large, pale koi fish, and leaves suspended upon the surface. What might you see in the above piece of art?
A few months ago, I was approached by author Stephanie Portal of a French publication Pratique des Arts. She had attended the International Association of Pastel Societies last June and saw my work and was curious if I would share some information about my pastel work for her audience. I am thrilled to be a conduit for the European's to see inside It helps me to find words for my work, and I am hoping your readers will gain a better understanding of my work. Please be aware that I am answering your questions predominantly for studio work, but I do provide some of my plein air techniques in the city…a very challenging, yet exciting place to paint. What do you like about painting cityscapes? What sparked your interest in this theme?
My first spark of inspiration was lit when I saw a painting created by American artist Ken Auster on the cover of an art magazine. It excited me to see everyday scenes uncommonly celebrated as a subject worth painting. Why not... I asked myself, could I take a closer look at my own city? Could I see the beauty in such an unconventional place? Could I recreate a sense of everyday life with bustling modes of transportation and people making their way through town interesting? My most favorite city scenes are accessorized with signage and lights. I often describe the illuminated lights as a candy Lollipop!
What are your favorites places to paint and why?
My favorite city to paint is Portland, OR, where I currently live. It has beautiful contrasts with cool and warm colors and a rail system, taxis, and many pedestrians. But wherever I am traveling, I am always on the lookout for the new subject matter. Having said that, I really like painting from a pedestrian point of view. As I walk along the streets of my own city, I look for the energy and movement of cars and pedestrians that will never present themselves in that moment and arrangement again.
Why is pastel the medium of choice for this theme? Do you sometimes use another medium (oil?) and how do they compare?
I choose pastel for my city scenes because I love the layering of color and how it allows me to emote solid shapes with color strokes. There is a beautiful thing happening when there are strong heavy marks and light feathery marks that adds excitement to my cityscapes. I do use oils for cityscapes, but it is not my preferred medium. It takes time to mix oil color, but with pastels, there is a spontaneity that matches the energy of the city.
What challenges do you encounter when painting streets from life (compared to quiet country views)? (atmosphere, busyness, noises, choice of spots) Do you work or finish your paintings in-studio and why?
Painting en plein air poses many challenges in the city. I have reported that the scene is more challenging to select due to its’ location, pedestrian traffic, and safety than painting it. The noise of the city does not bother me, but sometimes there might be an occasional observer. This can create many pleasant and unpleasant situations. Having said that, I prefer to paint my larger urbanscapes in the studio because I can take my time reacting to my feelings than my speed.
Evening Errands 24x24" Pastel
What do you look for in a cityscape? What makes an interesting scene?
I look for composition and energy first. For me, an interesting scene must have transit, lights, and then signage. People are wonderful extras, but not always necessary.
What makes a good composition? What elements do you keep/erase?
In the city, I often find good composition when viewed from crossing the middle of a street surrounded by tall buildings. This provides a "U" composition, however, I love creating a fulcrum that is predominantly dark with a small area of light. This can be found deep within an area of buildings with a small area of sky lighting the scene.
I don't like the sight of trashcans, so I choose to eliminate them. I am careful to choose elements that support the feeling of energy. It could be a specific rail or shuttle, or perhaps people rushing off to work.
How important is the light? What are the best times (of the day, of the year) to paint the city?
I love painting any scene in the early or later hours of the day because it provides a light that has more drama and provides an interesting mood, dramatic shadows, and tonal qualities to an otherwise gray scene. The fall season is also a favorite time of year to paint because it has more color and weather variations.
How do you decide color harmony? Do you pay attention to complementary and analogous colors? Do you have favorite color combinations?
I love using a complementary or split complementary palette. I am open to what colors are most dominant in a scene and then play with that. However, I love painting orange or blue scenes the most.
You also like night scenes. Why and how do you work on them ? Are they specific difficulties with them?
I love creating night scenes because they offer mood without much detail. Also, there is less to see in the dark, and the street lights are what excite me the most. Like I shared before, "they" are the lollipops!
Evening Errands 24x24" Pastel
But when it comes to painting nocturnes en plein air, that offers many challenges. Losing your equipment is easy when there is a limited light source. Also, colors are nearly lost, so I use a clip-on lamp attached to my palette so that I can see the colors. Upon returning to a day-lit location the finished paintings are often more intense than intended. Oftentimes the pieces could be either exciting or disappointing, depending on how you look at it. As for safety, I recommend painting with a partner so that there are two sets of senses to hear and see potentially dangerous predicaments.
How do you proceed? (sketch, blocking in, layers, highlights) How important is the drawing?
First, I begin to select a color theme and work up my sketch onto my sanded paper with a pastel pencil. I adjust the composition and drawing by taking a photo of it and then reducing it on my smartphone screen to clearly see the basic elements of the composition. What about the underpainting?
Once I have made drawing corrections, I begin on an underpainting of either a thin acrylic wash or thin veils of oil. I often switch it up a bit with laying in pastel and then wet it down with turpentine. This is the fun part because often the painting will create an entirely new direction. I love the adventure of all the directions a piece will take in the process.
Do you use different textures of pastels and if yes, how do you make use of them
I love using softer pastels than harder ones, and I prefer using my own selection of colors produced by Jack Richeson because they are consistent in texture. I will use a harder pastel to lay in my sketch and use the softer pastels for the build-up of layers and mark-making. How do you capture the atmosphere, the energy of the city? (color harmony, mark making)
The atmosphere is created by thin layers of color, much like the fog is to the sky. Mark making is the most effective way to create energy in a cityscape. It is felt upon application, and it is felt when looking at it.
What did you learn from painting this theme? What do you aim to achieve in the future?
I learned that I need to crop in the scene more often and look for the basic shapes rather than observing every overwhelming detail. This has made my growth and enjoyment so enriching.
Do you have 5/10 advice/tips/golden rules to paint cityscapes or to paint in the street?
Expect the unexpected
Always choose safety first
Find the vanishing point and layout the horizon.
Paint what will most likely move first. Cars, trucks, food cart, the light source.
Keep it simple
Be aware of your tripod legs impeding foot traffic
Be aware of your time
Take small breaks to rest your legs and look around your surroundings as they are constantly changing.
Don’t engage with unstable people
Be flexible. You may have to move while in the middle of creating your masterpiece.
What material do you use (you can mention brands): paper, pastels, accessories, fixative? What is your outdoor material?
I use Uart 280 grit paper
Jack Richeson Brenda Boylan Plein Air and Starter Kits, Terry Ludwig pastels, Sennellier pastels
a small t-square to get angles straight
Gamsol or denatured alcohol for my wash
Foam brush to wipe away build-up or to make corrections
masking tape to mount work to the palette and also to create a dust bin below my paper.
Soft cotton rag for wiping my hands
Portable moist wipes for cleaning my hands
Non-latex gloves to protect my hands
Tripod with a ball adaptor, and a pastel box that is custom made by Open Box M.
I do not use fixative. I finish my paintings by covering with a sheet of glassine atop my finished painting. I then buff the glassine into the pastel surface by pressing with the palm of my hand and smoothing out the entire surface. This helps knit the pastel into the tooth of the Uart paper
After viewing the OPA’s 28th National Juried Exhibition, albeit via the internet, I was Impressed by the volume and level of talent this organization hosts. Bravo! I am a relatively new member and I imagine many of you have a litany of solo shows on your resume’ and have attended art events that could fill Alladin’s wish list. Whether you have attended a museum exhibit, exhibited in a nationally recognized show such as the OPA, or a local small town venue, you will notice that each show has it’s inherent culture and theme.
Every art opening deserves a thoughtful respect to the presented art and those who represent it. To make an event run magically I am going to offer a couple of observations on what to do, and what not to do at an art event. While I’m sure a few of us may have unintentionally committed a social blunder or two, as I sure know I have, we could all use a little polishing up on our art manners. So here are a few pointers to make a show shine:
Late is a FOUR Letter Word. When hosting an art opening, it is best to arrive at an agreed time prior the opening so that the gallery director can address any final concerns. This helps build trust and eases the flow of the evening. Being late also means keeping close to closing time. Don’t linger too long after the show is over. Gallerists have a life too, and may want to retire after a hard day’s work. After all, it is possible the gallery dealers may have been on their feet for nearly twelve hours.
Wear appropriate attire that is a notch above the occasion.
Dress to impress. An opening is like a job interview. so wear appropriate attire that matches the occasion. With art being displayed in all types of venues from country craft fairs to big city galleries, take mental inventory of the venue and dress a notch up so you take the honor over the venue and customer. Don’t wear a painting smock and stocking cape, nor a ballroom gown and crown, unless it’s a dress themed show. If you are arriving straight from the studio or field, take consideration and pack a change of clothing. Some of us are not fashionistas or GQ models, so when in doubt ask a buddy for an honest opinion. Decibel Discussions. Speak at a lower volume than the crowd. A show opening is a joyous event and is a celebration of the art. Yes, I admit that I have had loud outbursts of laughter during a show and have had to tone it down, but be conscious of the room’s volume and allow others to have uninterrupted intellectual conversations. That is not to say that others don’t wish to hear what we have to say about the work, but be conscious of your volume.
Negative Nots. Don’t openly criticize the show unless you are a professional art critic. While attending an event, it is advised to keep any negative opinions to ourselves. As we all know, art is subjective, yet we may react in unforeseen and unexpected ways. That’s great! The art has spoken through the senses, but let’s play nice. Be aware that the artist’s intent put forth took immense effort, so wait to discuss potentially harming and disappointing opinions…in privacy on the way home in the car. Just remember that public criticism is itself a display of competition. Or is it individuality?
Allow room for everyone to enjoy the work.
The Consumer: You’ve seen it before, a guest who consumes a large portion of you or the presenting Artist’s attention and time. Let us all be aware that the show is up and there are several curious collectors at the opening who may want to ask exhibiting artist a question or two. As an art attendee or supporter we may also unknowingly stand directly in front of a piece while catching up with long-lost friends. Keep in mind that blocking others from taking in the work consumes the guests space and time. Move on to view the show and take it in. Also, how many times have you witnessed a close friend or enthusiast cornering the Artist with personal subjects outside of the show at hand? This behavior puts the Artist in an uncomfortable position. If you witness this, please help the Artist by redirecting the guest to allow the Artist to meet other attendees at hand.
Indulge Yourself...in the art and the collectors, but not in the treats. This includes alcohol. The host often supplies and expenses a spread of morsels and wine to share with the guests. There have been times when a full meal is provided and this is very generous of the host, yet be mindful and step away from the silver trays. Perhaps eat a small snack prior an event, or wait to go out after the event with your new found art admirers. When it comes to the wine, monitor your intake. I know it is easy to take in a little more than needed, but be careful. Sadly, I have witnessed a gallery owner get drunk and it embarrassed me to no end. Unfortunately, that gallerist did not last long in the business and this is true for us artists as well. Also, when finished with your wine cup or small snack plate, place them in the trash receptacle or table and NOT on art pedestals. This gives the 3D art the respect it deserves and keeps the presentation of the room at it’s best.
Misplaced receptacles draw attention away from the art.
No Solicitors Allowed. Do not promote yourself while attending another artist’s show! I had once attended a beautiful show and while there, I saw business cards from another artist placed precariously around the gallery. OUCH! This is not a good way to get attention for our art, and will tarnish a hard earned reputation. Neither is it a good time to solicit a portfolio or whip out a cell phone to share some recent work to the gallerist or director. If asked to share, then take the opportunity to set an appointment for another time.
Permission Please. If you wish to take photos of the art, always ask the artist for permission. A flash may effect the work, and the artist owns copyright on their creations. Many times I have witnessed admirers snapping close ups and have imagined that they might print it out for their enjoyment, or even copy the idea. Here is a great moment to address the admirer that not every artist wants their work photographed. Then again, they may have a potential buyer on the other end. Don’t be afraid to ask what their intention is, and perhaps offer up the gallery directors business card to follow through with the image.
Ask for permission to take photos of art.
There is always more we can do to improve our industry, so I’m hoping that I have cast some light upon a subject that is not often discussed. Whether a small town exhibit, or a national solo show, it is my wish that every one of us can adjust and elevate the sense and value of our work by being mindful of our show manners. We are our best representatives, and genies of our work.
Overlooked, average, and often undiscovered spaces close to home can be the most inspiring places to paint. Once you slow down and really look around you, you will find all sorts of unsung beauty. Here is a spot just around the corner from my house that I drive past nearly every day. It was a chilly Fall morning with the sun rising just behind the rooftops, and there it was...this stand of small birches highlighted by a glowing, rainbow-like mist. I gotta STOP! And so I made a swift U-turn back to my house, picked up my painting gear and returned a few minutes later to paint it. Now every time I drive past this unnoticed spot of beauty, I will always remember what I saw and what was painted. Art does that. It takes us somewhere else, calms us, and settles our busy lives down. Take in a moment and look around you while running your next errand. What do you see?
This piece is headed to the New Visions show at The Mission Gallery in St. George, UT. March 21-22, 2019
When I was a littler kid, I was usually found quietly entertaining myself by making something with my hands, and pestering or instigating trouble with my
sister. My wild side provided endless curiosity to make things; whether
with crayon, pencil, paint, clay, wire, tissue paper, gum wrappers,
mud, food...you name it. Sometimes the result was a mess! Making
something out of nothing was pretty much a self-driven therapy. I often
thank the heavens I'm not crazy...or am I? So to all of you creative souls out
there, I'm sending you suggestions for a year filled with curiously fun
adventures, creative opportunities, artistic possibilities, and
hopefully some new art supplies that will keep on giving for years to
This Advanced Pastel class is an 8-week series that will cover the finer
points of pastel painting and beyond, with the still life as our
subject. Designed for the artists who have a solid understanding
of pastel painting. Artists will have the choice of painting a still
life that is composed and worked on each week over a series of sessions,
OR, from a new still life composition each week. The artist must have
knowledge of painting vernacular and skills based upon previous
lessons, experience and instructor approval.
In this course we will cover everything pastel
that is 'chalk full' of information with plenty of time to practice
and finesse your newfound knowledge. We will build upon your
skill, understanding, and confidence in the medium through a progression
of exercises on the many aspects of pastels. We will be breaking down
the values of pastels, exploring the facets of mark-making,
discovering your style with pastels, under-painting techniques, and
more. This is a great course for those who wish to discover the medium,
learn about pastel on a broader level, or for those who wish to push
their pastel work to the next level. Perfect for Beginner to
No-fear plein air painting requires a little planning, a healthy dose of respect for nature and a keen sense of humor. With my five simple tips for painting en plein air, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and make the most of your experience.
1. Practice setting up your easel a few times before your
first outing. Navigating an umbrella can be a humorous endeavor for
others to observe, so practice where and how to hook it up to avoid
frustration and wasted time. 2. Your first mark should be the horizon line. This grounds your painting and immediately navigates the space. 3. When dressing, think thin-to-thick. Wear layers of clothing to avoid colder-than-expected or steaming hot conditions. 4. Be courteous and respectful with nature and your fellow painters
while out painting. In that way, painting outdoors is a little like
camping. If you are in a very wild area, expect natural things to
happen. Bug bites, wildlife, unexpected weather conditions, or a
potential angry farmer, as well as the best painting subject matter, are
all part of the plein air experience. Leave no trace behind. 5. Have a sense of humor at the easel. This keeps things simple and not overworked — not to mention, the “fun factor” is definitely increased.
Amidst the Lines (36x48" oil on gallery wrapped canvas)
Do you have paintings that have taken several different directions during it's creation? It can be frustrating and is a similar to getting lost in a new city without a map, or worse, getting a flat tire on a freeway. Well, that is what happens when a plan is not in place before putting paint onto your canvas or paper.
What do I mean by a "plan"?
Roadmap: Have a compositional sketch or two to see if the elements have a flow, or movement that keeps the viewer in and exploring your painting. Try out a your plan with a vertical, horizontal or square shape for starts.
City Limits: Decode your scene with a three or four value structure to keep things general. There is no room for detail, so keep it simple. This is a basic necessity for any painting, much like a map has city limits or borders. use felt markers of 3 or 4 values to keep it simple.
Red Lights: Where will your focal point be located? Use complimentary colors, detail, high contrast, letters and numbers, and faces or people to attract the eye to stop and take a closer look.
Notes on where the focal point will be with supporting detail to guide the viewers eyes around and throughout the piece. The road and skyline areas offer light values with little detail, providing a large resting spot.
Rest Stops: Use negative space to allow the viewer's eyes to rest through the painting. Sometimes pieces have too much detail all over the entire piece, creating a noisy, busy piece that can't stop honking.
Road Conditions: Decide on a color theme. This creates a mood and gives life to a overcast day or light-filled landscape. Ask yourself "What color is today?" Is it overall a warm sunny day filled with Cad Yellow, or a cool wintry day filled with Ultramarine Blue? Asking these questions help you to zone into a color theme.
I sure hope you liked all my urban inspired descriptions to help you navigate the necessary points for a successful painting journey.
This past December, my husband and I thought we'd do something different and take our growing kids on a trip instead of stressing out on buying gifts that perhaps might not be appreciated. Experiences instead of things? What a concept!
Well gosh, since I'm there I might as well get some business done while I'm there. My favorite place to paint is pretty much the California desert, so I took oodles of photos for future work, and while I'm there, I might as well pay my galleryt a visit and hand over a few pieces. So my easel was on fire because I had just given myself one of those self imposed deadlines. So here is what came out of the deadline. Check out Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery online to for a peek of what he has to offer.
The Main Strip (10x24" oil on panel)
Desert Floor (10x24" oil on panel)
This one has yet to be delivered...
Defiant Heat Rising (36x48" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas)
Being out in the sunshine painting a beautiful scene with bold color like this makes for a fulfilling day. This piece was created with an accompanying 3-part video short in order to share with you an inside look at my process. Jane Bell Meyer of The Mission Gallery has conceptualized the idea of presenting several plein air artists painting for three days in a row. It's quite a kick to see how each artist conveys what they see, where they are, and how they communicate it in paint.
Here is my very attempt at trying to tape myself at the easel, not very easy and not an Oscar winning moment either, but you get the gist. Enjoy!
Hadn't shared this one yet cuz I've been so busy with family stuff... graduation, and my folks visiting. It's been a fun week of celebrating and more, and now back to work today. Weather is looking too good to be inside, yet much to do that has piled up in the studio. So I'm finally getting this one out there. Worked on it during the rainy months here in Portland. I came upon this scene when I made a wrong turn and ended up with the perfect moment to shoot a pic from my car dashboard as the trolley was stopping. Loved the lights and the atmosphere of the scene.
Offering a 2 day "Pastels en Plein Air" workshop. Come join in a fun and highly educational plein air pastel workshop for all levels of painters. Plein air painting has its own challenges and advantages, offering quick studies to beautiful finished works in just a few hours. Get to know the best practices, methods, materials, and how to select a scene that will cement your solid foundation of plein air painting. We will focus on how to build a painting through design, values, shapes, and color to jump start your plein air journey. Brenda will offer a brief demonstration each day to help you focus on the essentials of plein air. Additionally, there will be personal advice at your easel and we will wrap up each day with a group discussion/critique at the San Clemente Art Supply.
Brenda is a Signature Member of LPAPA & the Pastel Society of America, and has been an instructor at the 2nd ,3rd, and 6th Plein Air Conventions.
Urban scenes continue to inspire me because of the activity, lights, and pops of color. I Portland, OR., where I live we have a metropolitan transit system called the MAX. There are several routes that travel throughout the various areas of the central region often crossing bridges, and sections of town. Some of the the routes are identified by the color of the trolley.
In this particular piece, I focused on a triad color scheme of orange, purple and green with a dominant warm color temperature. Because it was a Fall scene, I chose as the dominant hue. Look closely and you might see hints of orange in the street.