Listen to the Work

If you've ever heard it said that "... the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and go where it tells him to go" - Madeleine L'Englethen you'll know how I've approached this next painting. As you can see, the reference photo is rather boring as far as the color pallet goes. In my mind, however, I envision this picture with brilliant colors. 


So, using my reference photo to guide me with my proper values, I translated the existing image into one with a totally different color scheme. You can see the paintbrush I used for this step, a 1 1/2" Yasutomo brush.

I wanted this cactus painting to have crazy, intense color that was not what you would normally expect to see on a plant like this but would look believable none the less. I decided to "listen to the work" and used the brilliant colors of the background to guide me with my choices of color for the cactus. With pastel began bringing the image forward. 
I tried very hard NOT to make the cactus pads the predictable "green" but instead incorporated the deep blues and crimson shades of the watercolor  under painting into the shadowed areas of the plant and allowed it to bloom into vibrant shades of orange and red for the blossoms. 

This was a challenging exercise but one that had beautiful results and definitely hurled me outside of my box. 

I'll post the final image next week, it should be finished by then.

Building Pastel on Top of Watercolor

Now comes the fun part!
Once you have established your under painting with the colors you've chosen and taken the time to get your values and especially your darks as they should be, you will be able to start applying your pastel. I like this part best because now is when the actual image starts to evolve and the beautiful layering of color starts to glow. You can already see subtleties of color in the background layers beginning to interact with the pastel.
This translates as energy and I often refer to it as the "soul" of the painting. It glows through and gives life to the images.

Here is
a close up of the finished piece titled "Sweet Solitude". When I look at this picture I can almost hear what's going on in this guy's mind.... Finally,... Sweet Solitude! This is my husband and I know for a fact he would love to be saying that right now!

"Exploring", A Good Thing!

As I said in a previous post, I have decided to go on an exploring expedition, artistically that is. One of the issues I have been experiencing is that I am wanting more vibrancy in my paintings. I still like the subtlety of the layering of color but it seems to fall flat when I get it out of my studio into different lighting. I attribute this to not having enough pastel on the paper. I decided to take a cue from a previous painting I did on pumice primed gator board and see if I could use the pumice medium on my watercolor paper. This turned out to be a great idea. I began by applying a thin layer of Golden's Pumice Gel diluted with water to the consistency of melted ice cream to my watercolor paper. Once it was thoroughly dry I proceeded the same way I usually do. I established my under painting with various shades of watercolor, let it dry and proceeded from there with my pastels.

I was so much happier with the finished
results. It was definitely more vibrant without having to sacrifice subtlety of color. And the best part is that it continued to stand strong under softer lighting, I love that.

Here are the beginning stages of my first exploratory painting on pumice primed watercolor paper. The under painting is made of Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, and Quinacridone Gold.

When painting the initial foundation of watercolor on my paper I may have to let it dry and reapply several times to get the preferred intensity and/or desired value. If you've worked in pastel you know that it helps to have the right darkness on your paper before you ever put that first stroke of pastel down. The right underlying value allows your pastel to really come alive off your page. I strive to take the time (and effort) to get the under painting right before I ever allow myself to continue with pastel. Trust me, it will make the painting go so much more smoothly if you take the time to get this step right. Along with getting the values correct I make sure I get my dark areas as dark as I can get them with the colors I choose to use there.

Working on this step is just like working on a watercolor painting in that you need to be thinking several steps ahead. What colors you choose to use in the under painting directly depends on what pastels are going to be dragged over the top of that color. The watercolor hue on the bottom will most likely be peaking through the pastel strokes on top and you want to make sure those colors are what you want to achieve your desired effect. When working this way you may even want to intentionally allow the bottom layer of watercolor to reveal itself more with less pastel on top of it from time to time to allow an element of movement and translucency within your painting.

One last thing, I chose to keep my under painting colors on the subdued side on this piece because I wanted my final image to have the feeling of peacefulness. Each painting is different, though, and depending on the feel you are trying to create, the under painting may be quite different in vibrancy. In my next post I will show you a lot more of the pastel development.

Exciting News!

I just learned and am excited to share the news that my painting "Remembrances of South Texas" has won the Grand Prize Award for the Still Life & Floral Challenge sponsored by the International Artist Magazine. This magazine is distributed globally and artists from all over the world submit entries to their competitions.

This painting along with a very nice article can be seen in the current Oct./Nov. issue of International Artist Magazine.

Thank you to all of you who continue to support my work and are a tremendous encouragement to me.

Exploring Your Passion

First of all, I must apologize for not having posted in a while. I have been off my routine for a time but am now back on track with several new paintings completed and a new process to share. These latest pieces are different in theme from my usual western images because I have given myself the freedom to explore some new subjects. For the past several years my art has been of the western nature, ranching, chuck wagon cooking and modern day cowboys. These subjects continue to be very dear to my heart, but recently I have had a desire to explore some new subjects. Mark Kohler who is a tremendous watercolor artist and a knowledgeable teacher, gave me the direction I needed to hear in his blog post about finding your passion and being true to yourself.

As artists, it's easy sometimes to settle into a subject you know and enjoy painting because it is familiar to you, but let me challenge you to give yourself permission to explore periodically. You may be surprised at the treasures that are exposed. Stretching yourself to press on to uncharted territories can be a scary adventure but how would you ever find what truly moves you unless you search for it and explore your passion. As Mark says, "if you stay true to yourself and pursue your own artistic passion and your own artistic vision, that honesty will come through to a collector".

Slickhorn Nerwborn
Mark is a western watercolor artist whose own passion is painting the spirit and independence of the modern day cowboy, which he has an abundance of admiration and respect for. I first saw Mark's work at a gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico about 5 years ago and have been an admirer of his art ever since. Not long ago I stumbled onto his blog where he freely shares his knowledge and expertise on everything from watercolor to wild hogs and wise cowboys.

I encourage you to check out Mark's site. Whatever direction your creativity leans you are sure to be greatly informed and truly inspired.

Pastel Problems And Working Them Out

Once and for all, I pulled this picture out of the closet in hopes of finishing it once and for all. I am determined to complete it before beginning any of the next 19 paintings I have on my list to produce for a show in San Antonio next year. The problem I am having is that the original photograph I am using as reference has no image in the window background and I am having to create something new to put there. This picture was taken on our "floater" in Baffin Bay. A floater is actually a cabin that floats on the water. It is tethered to a pole that is anchored in the water so that it is free to move around depending on the direction of the wind.

So, I decided to paint the image of the bay in the background outside the window. But something just didn't look right about it. And since I didn't have anything to compare it to, I was stumped. So this is how I solved my problem:

• First, I took a photo of the painting and turned it into a black and white image so I could see the values clearly.

• Second, I played with the background image (on the computer) making it lighter, then darker to see what value needed to go there. I decided to make the water darker in the foreground and lighter in the back ground and added a darker streak to create some interest. To me it looked like the wake of a boat that had just passed by.

Problem solved!
I had to take the image back down to the basics of values in order to see what was lacking. Now, I have a blueprint of proper values to guide me through the completion of the painting. And once I did this, I saw other areas of the painting that needed some "ooomf"! Keep this in mind if you can't figure out what your painting is missing. Most of the time, I bet your values need tweeking.

Do you have some insight to share on how you go about problem solving when things just don't seem right with a painting you are working on? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

New Painting on Pastelbord

As you know, the painting surface I normally work on is watercolor paper. I decided, however, to stretch my self on my last piece by using a pumice primed gator board as my painting surface. What a challenge. Today, I am taking another step into the unknown, I will be using "Pastelbord" by Ampersand for my next piece. I tried this board recently during a workshop I took with
Claudia Seymour and was very pleasantly surprised at the results.

Pastelbord has a fine sanded surface that is capable of holding many layers of pastel. And, if you are familiar with my work you will know that I am a layering fool! The wonderful thing about this surface is that while I can continue to have my subtle layers of color, I can also have a painting that is pumped with color intensity, which I am crazy about. You can see what I mean with this still life I created at the workshop.

I have to say that trying new mediums and papers is not what I inherently like to do. It's much more comfortable doing what I know and using the materials I am accustomed to using. If I had not forced myself to stretch, though, and I do mean forced myself, my paintings would not be enjoying the color or richness some of these supports offer.

So, I encourage you to try something new. How sad it would be if your work could be transformed by a single sheet of paper and you weren't adventurous enough to try it.

What materials have you tried recently that made a positive affect on your paintings? I'd love to hear about it.

Pastel Painting of Cactus Now Complete

FINALLY, it's complete! This 27" x 48" pastel cactus in full bloom painted on pumice primed board is finally finished. A well deserved thank you to my very kind and very patient clients who never lost hope that they would indeed see their commissioned painting completed and ultimately installed in their home.

During the final stages of this painting, I was fortunate to take a workshop with well known and highly accomplished still life artist, Claudia Seymour. The lessons I took away from her workshop enabled me to complete the last bits of this painting confidently. Learning how to incorporate subtle color in the dark areas on the left allowed me to keep that area in the distance yet still have lots of interest. Also, making sure the elements up front were the sharpest and most vivid, and allowing the elements to become more diffused in color and clarity as they receded into the distance helped give this painting a real sense of depth and presence. Thank you Claudia. It was just what I needed to bring this painting home.

Sneak Preview of the Official 2010 Heritage Gathering Poster

I know you've been anxious to see the image chosen for the official 2010 Heritage Gathering poster, so here it is. This, however, is only the publicity poster. The actual one will be available at the Chuck Wagon Cook Off on Saturday, March 6th. A better view of ”Dustin Off The Lid“ can be seen on my website.

If you have never experienced the chuck wagon cook off event at the Agricultural Heritage Museum in Boerne, Texas, you should definitely put this on your calendar. The weather is usually gorgeous, the chuck wagon cooks compete and prepare some awesome food, and a better time for the entire family won't be found anywhere else in Texas!

I will also be there signing posters so come by and say hello.

This enjoyable event is one you won't want to miss. Hope to see you there.

Classes for Art Educators

I am so proud of my students! This class was comprised of art teachers from around the state of Texas who gathered at the Rockport Center for the Arts for Art Educator Days. This is a wonderful event that not only allows art teachers to learn and have a lot of fun doing it, but also helps to provide new and creative ideas for them to share in their classrooms.

My students created these colorful paintings with a very limited pallet of 12 pastels and a few basic tubes of watercolors.

I am so proud of their efforts and their creations.
Great job everyone!

Unexpected Beauty

"Plum Prickly" ,  Pastel Unexpected Beauty It’s a mystery to me why I am so drawn to painting cactus. I’ve always thought ...