Saturday, January 8, 2022

Painting with a Delicate Touch

I was introduced to use of a mouth atomizer years ago, but in the last few months I have used it more and more to create an interesting textured background to paint on. I also have found it a great way to paint a sky for birds to fly into.

It has been a while since I've done a step by step post, so read on if you are interested in just how I created this latest egret painting. ** The lighting/color is inaccurate until the last photo of the finished piece.

Because I wanted to protect the birds and moon as I applied paint with the atomizer, I covered the shapes with an adhesive film.  I sprayed 4 different times, letting the paint dry between each spray. The first mix was a gray using cobalt blue, ultra-marine blue and burnt sienna. The upper area of the piece was my focus, as I wanted to create a feel of the evening moving in. The next color was made with pure cobalt blue.  I concentrated spraying the blue on the lower portion of the paper. After it dried I felt it was just too light and too blue, so the third round of spraying was using a bluer gray mostly on the lower area. The last spray was a unification of all the colors with another round of blue gray in a circular pattern.

I am learning more and more about controlling the spray of color using the atomizer. I can leave an area light and create darker areas, just by moving my head and hand holding the tool as I blow on the atomizer.


(I've talked about this in other posts, but here's a reminder of what the mouth atomizer is.)

After peeling off the protective film, the first thing I painted was the moon. 

Then came the most distant birds painted with a gray. I wet the area with water first before adding the pigment. I also used a very small brush to control the edges. 

I've included this photo showing a towel protecting the lower portion because even one drop of water can  make an unwanted break to the beauty of the misting. I've learned this the hard way!

I love the delicacy of the white egrets and worked at keeping my marks delicate also. This was aided by wetting areas before dropping in the colors creating soft edges and diluted colors.

After painting the birds, I was unhappy with the cool yellow of the moon which I'd painted with Aureolin yellow. I warmed it up with a wash of yellow ochre.

My plan was to create a marsh grass under the birds. In this photo you can see that I threw down some paper scraps to check out the color and potential size.  By messing around with the paper pieces I could also try out  the frequency of blooms I might apply with paint.

Eventually the rain slowed down and there was enough light outdoors to take a good photo of the finished painting. 

Leaving the Marsh
22" x 15"
Transparent Watercolor

Monday, January 3, 2022

Wrapping Up 2021

 As I sit here (still in a rental home) near a burning wood stove, the snow falling yet another day,  I am reflecting on my year's art making.  It has been a prolific year for me. I have created many fire inspired pieces from charred wood to charred wood with birds to charred wood with plants. Owls kept flying through and seemed to be among the most favored of my work. 

"Owls represent wisdom, knowledge, change, transformation, intuitive development, and trusting the mystery. They are tied to the spiritual symbolism of “death” which brings about new beginnings with a higher understanding and evolved perspective. Owls can show up when you are being asked to listen to your intuition."


Believe what you like, but I do feel that owls' mysterious traveling through the night, their ability to hide and camouflage, and their haunting hoots have created a connection we humans feel towards the species. And so, one of my more meaningful Christmas gifts I made was an owl painting for my granddaughter, Angelica. With her permission, I share this piece which is about loss/death of a best friend. It brought tears, the good kind.

Trying to keep up on my watercolor and gouache skills, I painted a couple of new pieces in the last month of the year. They both fit in with my thoughts of how small we are in an immense environment. I've enjoyed looking through photos I've taken that reflect that thought. "What Was" says so much about our experience of the loss of our home which was snuggled into a grove of old protective trees. 

What Was

22 x 15 inches
Transparent Watercolor

The very last painting of the year is "Sharing Secrets." I chose to paint this because there is nothing more poignant than the connection between a young person and an animal they trust and love. 

This was painted on a gold gessoed piece of watercolor paper. (Gesso is a layer of paint you prime your watercolor paper with. In this case it is a metallic gold gesso.) I cut out the human and horse form with an adhesive film to protect that part of the painting while I created the background.

I am always attracted to the use of strata (horizontal layers) in a landscape. The painting above shows the first skin of gouache I used. (Gouache is an opaque watercolor paint.)

Gouache needs more layers when put on the gessoed paper. So the landscape gets developed with more layers and detail.

The final part to this piece is peeling off the film and settling the figures into the painting to complete the story. I love the way the horse and human connect and seem to be communicating with each other. I remember our kids sitting/lying on their horses just feeling safe and heard in a way neither parents or friends could understand. A horse can hear the tales of woes and continue to graze--the horse's way of saying it doesn't really matter so much. And maybe as I paint this picture I am saying to myself, " It doesn't really matter so much." New times coming!

Sharing Secrets

15 x 22 inches
Gouache on Gessoed Paper

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Black, White & Red All Over

I love to share my art skills and teach others, so I was definitely in my element last week in Portland. The one-day class I taught (titled Black, White & Red All Over) was great fun filled with 11 enthusiastic participants. We were all there to spend the day drawing and making patterns to create art. I was delighted to see how everyone in the class took to this method of making art so easily. But why not? In our early years we all start drawing and doodling, although I do not choose to use the word "doodling" in my creations.

Class Work

Starting Shapes to Fill with Patterns
Making Patterns

Patterning on Subject Matter

Some Finished work

King of the Couch

                 A Different Subject Matter

I began this newer method of making art after the Holiday Farm Fire burned down our home over a year ago. I was drawing trees and inking in burned bark. As life began to return, I started adding plants and birds to my burned woods. 

But before my workshop, I thought I should try a different subject matter to encourage my class to look beyond what I do, and so I used our cat for the subject matter. I was happy to show how the same technique could be used in a variety of subject matters.

My Demonstration Piece

For my demo I returned to my burned forest theme with an owl as the center of interest. During the day, I worked on the piece between times of giving each participant some individual time to talk about their work and answer questions.

By the end of the day I had finished a painting featuring a lovely owl flying through the burned trees.

Suzy's Owl

One of the class members decided to purchase this guy in flight. I signed it and christened it "Suzy's Owl." He will find his way to Sun River!

Why Owls? 

I have been thinking about this lately. I have heard owls hooting through the night, but have rarely spotted one with my eyes. Yet they seem so lovely in my fire inspired art. 

"Owls represent wisdom, knowledge, change, transformation, intuitive development, and trusting the mystery. They are tied to the spiritual symbolism of “death” which brings about new beginnings with a higher understanding and evolved perspective. Owls can show up when you are being asked to listen to your intuition." Gleaned from the internet.

"Change, Death and New Beginnings" seem to apply to my life of the past 15 months. The Holiday Farm Fire brought a forced change, death to our home, landscape and plant-life, and New Beginnings as we forge ahead with a new home and regrowth of our beloved McKenzie Valley. 

Happy Holidays to one and all!

The Star of Hope

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Left Brain/Right Brain: Art Needs Both

My good friend Ruth Armitage ( recommended the book "Expressive Drawing" by Steven Aimone, so, of course I bought it. He talks briefly about the use of the left and right parts of your brain in drawing. I started thinking about my recent "fire inspired graphic art" pieces and how each side of the brain is used in creating these pieces.

I begin with an idea of shapes: trees, limbs, birds, leaves, owls. The left brain then takes the shapes and applies my knowledge of composition and arranges them on the paper. In this piece I was thinking of a circular connection for the owl and the vine maple. Do you see it?

After adding my charred tree shape, I switch to the right side of brain. I start filling in the shapes with line work that is not based on any reality. I allow myself to do something you might call doodling within the shapes. This is my own method of mark making. To me this changes the piece from drawing to art.

After all the mark making, I look to see where I might add color to add to the message of the piece. In "Fall Flight" I knew ahead that I would be using orange and red on the maple leaves and owl's eyes. I added more lines to create the feeling of a burned forest. The final touch was adding the orb, one of my favorite shapes when broken up behind the trees and owl. I guess this part of the process is using both sides of the brain; having emotional response to the piece as well as logically applying additional lines. Do you have an emotional response to this piece?

Fall Flight
9" x 12"
Pen and Ink & Watercolor

I will be sharing my graphic art making at the Oregon Society of Artists in Portland, Oregon on Dec. 1, 2021. This one-day workshop (Black, White and Red All Over) will be fun and relaxing while exercising both sides of your brain!
Hope to see some art making friends--open to all levels of experience. 

Register at or call 503-228-0706.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Wrestling Match: Me vs Painting - I Think I Won


Six months ago I was painting egrets using a particular technique, starting with a spray from the mouth atomizer. 

One I named Spirit Egret, and thought enough of it to enter it into a competition. Recently my art friend, Liz Walker, visited and took a look at the painting. She made a remark something like, "I think this has potential, why don't you finish it." Finish it!!  Yikes! I'd already put it under the eyes of a scrutinizing juror!

But of course as I looked at it, I realized it was missing something, mainly color harmony and unity. I spent last week in the wrestling match of trying to make it better, if not great. Stubbornness is my middle name. Instead of telling you each change I made in the process, I'm presenting a slide show. At the end, let me know if you think I can raise my paintbrush as the winner!

Spirit Egret when I thought I was done

With a little warmth added in the lower part of the painting and completing the halo and putting collage on the top egret

Finally letting go of the golden egret idea and turning the halo into a sun while adding one more warm spray over the entire painting after protecting the birds.

The final touch, collage the edge of the sun. Patterns are my thing!

Spirit Egret
22 x 30
Mixed Media

Did I win?

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Changes and Growth--A Painting 11 Years in the Making

It's been a year now since our home burned to the ground. A new house is being built, and my old art and website need a revival. It will be a few months, but my studio will move out of the barn into a new studio. Part of this process is sorting through my flat files, looking at what's worth moving, what might be edited, and sadly, what needs to just go. During this process, I occasionally see a painting I still like, but could be better. Consequently, this fall leaves painting from 2010 has been given a new life.

A really cool thing about blogging, is that I can look way back in my art creating to revisit how and why I painted this in the first place. I enjoyed looking at this old post and, in a sense, revisiting the day I found these leaves and brought them into the studio. This painting represented who I was as an artist in 2010, but I've learned a few tricks, developed a sharper eye, and have become a better critic.

So what is wrong with this piece? Perhaps nothing, but I think it is hard for the viewer to really connect with the painting. Maybe there is just too much activity, especially on a 22" x 30" piece.

What I decided to do was to frame the areas of most interest. To do that, I started with containing two areas that I would develop into more interesting leaf and negative shapes.

Using my mouth atomizer, I darkened the uncovered area with a mix of browns.

Next, I painted two brown frames around the squares I had protected from the brown spray. Already I think you can see it is more interesting.

Finishing of this piece was applying black outlining--something I've become a big fan of. For this I used a black watercolor paint and a brush which sometimes created small rough edges that I left, just because I liked them! Not only are the leaf shapes prominent now, but I also outlined small interesting negative shapes. So here is the painting, 11 years in the making.

Blemished Leaves
22" x 30"
Mixed Media

Sunday, September 19, 2021

While She Sat in a Drawer Things Got Worse

Every once in a while an older painting comes out of a drawer to reach maturity. My daughter has been helping me build a current inventory of my artwork. As we go through the flat files, she will ask, "What's wrong with this one?" or "Doesn't this go with your ______ series?" So the other day I pulled out this early picture that truly was the beginning of my "Teach Me" series. I had really liked creating it, but it got no appreciation from a critique group, so it landed in a drawer where it has been lying since 2018. 

In 2018 the idea was simply a girl reaching out for a book.
She wanted to learn. (Ignore the odd shadow at the bottom.)

Because it was the start of the "Teach Me" series I brought it to the table to see how I could make more of a story out of it. I had always thought of her as an Afghan child flying across the desert. In 2018 Afghanistan was listed as one of the top ten countries most difficult for girls to get an education and now the future looks even darker. How could I convey that more clearly?

I started imagining a landscape. At first I thought I would make the sky a night sky, but that took away the impact of the flying child, so I settled on a light sky with clouds carrying symbols of an education. I already had symbols in the desert, so turning those collaged pieces into clouds was easy. Last night, as I finished creating a landscape in the lower portion, and white clouds in the sky, it seemed awfully cheerful to me. This morning brought a new twist to the painting. I brought in dark, ominous clouds into the sky, representing the returning power of the Taliban. Now there is a story!

Teach Me-Afghanistan