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Day 2 - Frank Gardner Workshop

Today the skies were clear and the weather was perfect -- although there was a pretty hefty wind which sapped the water from your body and gave all of us excuses for not being able to paint a straight line.

No excuses for Frank.   He started the day with a demonstration that was challenging to say the least.  He wanted to show us all another approach to painting and to emphasize the point that most paintings are all about values.  He chose a scene that was almost all in the shade and he developed it thoughtfully and carefully emphasizing subtle color shifts of slight variances in value.  He reminded us that no value in the dark family (in this case in the shady area) cold be lighter than any value in the light family (the sunlit areas).  This was especially challenging because the carriage he was painting was WHITE!...   He began by establishing the lightest light (the sunlit area in front of the stable) rather than the darkest dark this time. I think that alone impressed me...   Although the demonstration took most of the morning, it was well worth it to see how he carefully selected values and colors that were very close together and deliberately put down strokes of paint to eventually let the painting emerge.  

Frank was also very careful with his drawing.. often checking his initial measurements.  He did not DRAW out the whole scene with detail but rather made "notes" to himself using a cad/ultramarine mix which he continued to check.  From there as he layed in each paint stroke he reminded us to judge every value by comparing it with the lightest light and with the values closest to it.

He isolated color shapes and kept asking himself, "How dark is it compared to what is next to it?"  He said not to stare too long at something -- just get the impression of color and make value relationships using your last impression.  So much can be said with economy of stroke.  The look is more about feelings and colors... it is a study in greys.  -- It's like a poem.. Let the viewer imagine more....   Some paintings can be skillfully right but are just boring.  Push color variations, one stroke at a time.  Don't just paint in a section like a coloring book.

Thick texture comes toward you so be careful with your brushwork and use it to lead the eye.

After another delicious meal we all set out to paint on our own.   I did better than yesterday, but not as well as I would have liked.   None the less, it was another terrific day.   We all enjoyed hearing stories about all the painters who visited San Miguel earlier in the year.  Frank has several of their paintings up on his gallery walls alongside his own beautiful work.   It was interesting seeing how so many great artists can paint side by side and still create work which is unique and wonderfully different.        

Hasta manana!
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Encore Workshop with Frank Gardner In San Miguel de Allende

I had such a wonderful time last year in Frank Gardner's plein air painting workshop that I decided to try it again, so here I am in Mexico.  When I got here, Frank offered to take me along with him to visit some of the beautiful churches I often see in his paintings.  Interestingly enough, many of these little gems are now being renovated for the upcoming independence celebration and Frank was a bit dismayed because parts of the aging sections that he likes so much were being "fixed".   Oh well --  It will be a new opportunity to paint what may seem like a new scene.

This year I'm staying in a different B & B because some of the artists from the workshop were staying here.  It is nice but not as beautiful as the B & B I stayed at last year.  It is, however, closer to the center of town.  I've enjoyed getting to know Suzanne -- it's always good to have a buddy to share your defeats and victories with..  (and to share a meal and a margarita with too!)   We walked all over town on Sunday.   There is a new beautiful scene around every corner.
Yesterday was the first day of the workshop.   Frank had said that he planned to do it a bit differently this year and do some practice block ins to work on value, and design.  I had reviewed all of his notes from the previous workshop the night before and was dismayed to realize how much of what he had said I had NOT been utilizing.  Makes me realize how much I should review the notes I take and try to take on one thing at a time until I've mastered it..  I have been working on color and value, but may never ever get to the point where I'd like to be.

As with last year, Frank talked about his limited palette of alizerin, cad red, cad yellow light, lemon yellow, french ultramarine blue and thalo with white.  He mixes piles of color with the palette knife to avoid dirtying the colors.  He tries to mix the colors that he sees in the scene he will be painting on the palette before he places them on the canvas or board.  I enjoy listening to Frank as he explains what he's doing.  If only I could internalize it better. 

If you get a chance when he offers his class next year, book it!  Between the great city of San Miguel, the fabulous gourmet meals on the painting site and the great instruction, this workshop is a real winner.  I've taken many workshops... enjoyed almost all of them and learned from all of them... but I came back for a second time to this one because I enjoyed it so much.     (Don't hold these paintings of mine against Frank!)

I painted three real dogs yesterday, but still had a good time.  After doing his demo, we began to paint and Frank talked to each of us several times as we worked, giving us pointers as we worked.  He wanted us to just to do block ins to get a feel for the values and the compositions as well as to do a bit of practice with the color mixing.  I was exhausted last night so didn't get much chance to blog and it's almost time to leave again this morning so I will finish up and post more later.  

In the meantime,   I wish you all happy painting.
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If The Sun's Out, Let's Go Paint!

"Japanese Garden"
8"x16" on RayMar Panel
If you are interested in purchasing this painting, "Japanese Garden", please click HERE to contact Marian.

Tuesday was the day scheduled for our San Fernando Valley Art Club paint out.  In past years the club's paint outs had been scheduled irregularly and always on weekends, so I never managed to go.  This year, with our new paint out chairperson, Trish Bennett, they have been scheduled well in advance each month and so far they've been planned for weekdays.  Unfortunately, on our inaugural 2010 paint out in January, it was pouring rain.  CANCELED!

The weather reports have been quite inaccurate in the last week or so, so I wasn't sure if it was a go or not, but luckily today there was no rain.   We went to a place I never knew existed, called "Gardens of the World" in Thousand Oaks.  This is a privately run beautiful area in the middle of Thousand Oaks near the Civic Center.  The public is welcome but must sign in and agree to obey by printed rules which we had to read and sign before entering. 

Additionally we were able to enjoy club member and friend, Janet Snodgrass's watercolor and photo show which is hanging in the main salon area of the grounds.   Her opening is Saturday, March 6th, from 2-4 p.m. if any of you want to go to enjoy her paintings.   I will be in Mexico so I'm glad I got to see it today.

The grounds include an old a "California Mission" area, Japanese gardens, and several other beautifully landscaped and arranged areas representing parts of the world.  It wasn't the wild abandon natural landscape that I love to paint, but it was beautiful and after wandering around and taking photos, I finally settled in to the Japanese garden area.  There were about ten other painters from the club and I think we all had a good time.   I got to chat with Carol Tator, Trish Bennett, Janet Snodgrass and Chuck Kovacic.   George Malone, whom I had invited, painted in the California Mission area with a few other people.  Unfortunately I had to leave after about 2 hours of painting in order to pick up Tyler, so I couldn't stay and chat during lunch, but I still enjoyed myself.

I apparently didn't follow the rules as right after I blocked in my painting, I was asked to move.   After getting over it and moving on, (grumble, grumble) I dug in and enjoyed painting.   I had decided to try one of my 8 x 16 panels, and thought the result was okay given the limited time we had.  Unfortunately I didn't put it in a good place in the car on the way home and it got a bit mushed, but I spent a few moments at home cleaning it up and am able to say to myself...  "That was a good day of painting!"


I have a technical question for those of you painters who wish to chime in.   I've been painting and painting and have decided to do a TRIPTYCH.   I'm using three of the 16x8 panels (vertically) and am hoping that what I am planning will work.   All of the panels include children at the beach or on their way TO the beach.  The sizes of the kids on the two outer panels will be larger than that of the kids in the inner panel.  
Here is my question:....  WHAT exactly are the rules for a triptych???  
  • Does it have to be ONE painting on three panels, or can it be ONE theme on three panels?   
  • Does it matter about the relative size of the figures on the panels???   What do you think???    
  • After I'm finished I'll show you all three and then you can chime in with more opinions, but I wanted some opinions before I'm finished as well.   
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Painting Caballero Canyon - Karl Dempwolf Demo - "Googled" by Ken Auletta

"Caballero Sycamores"
14"x11"  Oil on RayMar Canvas board

If you are interested in purchasing this painting, please contact me HERE.

I love painting outdoors.  I love the sun and the beautiful sights. I love discovering new spaces and re-exploring familiar spaces.  I see things I would never have seen if I hadn't started painting outdoors.  I love everything about painting outdoors......  well, perhaps I could do without the bugs or the too hot/too cold/too windy/too wet aspects of it... but hey... the good really does outweigh the bad -- especially here in Southern California!

This painting is a familiar scene... one near my home again...   The sycamores in Caballero Canyon are actually pretty bare right now, but several trees do have some leaves hanging on and those just light up the area with color. 

I recently watched wonderful artist Karl Dempwolf do a demonstration for the California Art Club members and was reminded that when painting, the painter should not try to duplicate the scene exactly... that's what photographs are for.  One should create an interesting mosaic of shapes.  If a tree or a rock doesn't help the composition and lead the viewer to that "ahhhhh" feeling, then move it or leave it out.  (One of these days I WILL blog about Karl's demo as I promised...   really I will!..  I wish you all could have been there.)

So when I painted this painting, I did try to interpret the scene in a pleasing way.  I added colors and leaves that I thought looked nice.  It still has the spirit of Caballero Canyon sycamores, but it's my interpretation of the area... NOT an exact copy.   And I, for one, like it!!

(PS... I apologize for the huge photo file, but my favorite laptop died and I am unable to resize my images without my trusty software until and IF I find my original discs.)

On another note:
I love to read.   Usually I read books with no value other than to enjoy for that moment.  My son-in-law, Greg, in an effort to improve my mind, I think, had recommended a book called "Googled" by Ken Auletta.  Since I'm generally a reader of fiction, it wasn't the fastest read, but it was so interesting!  It really did make me realized how we all have come to rely on the internet --- most especially those things involving Google.  I am in awe of their meteoric rise and the changes the company has caused in most of our everyday lives.  The book did give me pause, however, when it came to the issues involved in the somewhat causal demise of the traditional newspaper, media, book, and journalism itself.   Auletta, mentioned that so many of us feared the big brother changes brought about and predicted in Orwell's "1984" book, but then said that it looked like we were more likely to be brought down in a way that Huxley predicted in his book, "Brave New World".   As Auletta quoted from Neil Postman's book called "Amusing Ourselves to Death", "Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.  Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism."        Hmmmmm....  

Here I am... amusing myself to death ON GOOGLE!!!!    But enjoying it all the way.

Who could have predicted how much the internet has changed everything about what we do and how we do it?   I wonder whether we as a collective world of people will be able to steer ourselves in a direction which will not result in the equivalent of flushing ourselves down the toilet!!!
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Point Dume Plein Air

"Point Dume Coreopsis "  Work in progress 11"x14"

I've been involved in so many activities lately that it has been hard to catch up with things that are important.  I've been painting but the last few efforts were so bad that I couldn't even save them to make them decent enough to post them.  

Last week I had gone with Sharon Weaver to paint with the Thursday "Irregulars" group...  It was a cold and grey day, but some of the other painters made absolutely gorgeous paintings.   I didn't.  I totally understood Walter McNally's critique when he talked about my need to mass the shapes rather that daub in individual leaves or flowers.  I tried to save the painting when I got back home but alas... it was a true dud.  On top of  THAT, my regular computer just up and DIED ! We have other computers in the house, but my files and programs that I depend upon and love are out of reach until I can get it fixed.

Over the last weekend I went to two demonstrations and had an art show opening.   I'm going to blog about Karl Dempwolf's demo later this week.   I do however, need to cut back on the weekend art activity.

Today, however, was absolutely glorious.   It had rained last week and again earlier this week so I couldn't get out but everything worked out today for a wonderful, beautiful day.  There was a film crew getting a set ready for a movie of some kind so I had to park far away but when I got to the base of the cliff and began to climb up, that's when the real beauty reviewed itself.

I hiked all over and just gloried in the scene.  I've been in this area before, but never when the coreopsis was in bloom...    Yellow flowers rioted across the top of Pt. Dume and danced in the light breeze. 

I finally settled in and started painting.  Several people came by and made nice comments...  As always, I laughed off the nice comments and said something like it would look better later.  All the while I talked to myself saying that if someone had something nice to say, I should accept it.   I was almost ready to start packing when a nice lady walked by and started talking to me.   We talked about the beauty of the spot and she said something to the effect that when days were this glorious...  if God took her at that moment, it would be okay.  It was a sentiment I totally agreed with.   After a while we exchanged information and she said that she might be interested in the painting.  Wow... A perfect day made even better!

Shortly after she left, I began to pack up in order to get back and volunteer in Tyler's class.  As I came down the cliff, one of the fellows working on the movie set stopped to talk.  He told me that if I waited around for a while I might get to see Tom Cruise.  Ah well...  The day was already perfect and I had to get back to work in class.

Now that I'm home, I can see that the painting needs some work, but I did get the color notes and a bit of a feel for the scene.  I think it's a nice study... one to finish or one to use to make a bigger painting.

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Plein Air Adventures

The CAC's monthly paint out was rained out by the spate storms that came through SoCal in the last few weeks so some of us emailed one another decided to try to team up and go out on a different day.

"Leo Carrillo"  SOLD
Maria Klar had suggested that we meet at Leo Carrillo State Beach and since I'd not been there painting, I jumped on the opportunity.  I drove out with Sharon Weaver and there we met Maria and Nita.   WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY!!!  When Sharon and I arrived, it was calm and warm and clear.   we each set up and began painting.  By the time Maria and Nita arrived just a short time later, the wind had kicked up a bit and the temperature dropped some, but it was still clear and beautiful.

I had decided to take a larger (11x14) RayMar board... I wanted to stretch myself a bit. It was also (gulp) linen.  I really enjoy painting on linen but I'm so darn cheap thrifty.  Since not everything I try turns out wonderfully, it KILLS me to spend the extra bucks on a support with out knowing it will be WONDERFUL.  (OMG!!!  ;o) )   I know............ I need to get over it.  Interestingly, since I've started experimenting with different supports, I've found that I like plain MDF boards that I've coated with toned gesso, canvas boards AND linen boards... I like them ALL... but for different reasons.  It adds another layer of decision making before I start out... but that kinda adds to the fun, too. 

If time spent trying to get something down on the support counts as progress, I know I've gotten to be better as I've been painting outside over the last few years.  I used to go out with a small board or canvas - usually 8x10 or smaller and I'd labor for well over 3 hours and end up with ..... well it was the best I could do... but ... well, you know.   Now I can go out for an hour with a 6x8 like last Thursday and come up with something I liked.  After about 2 1/2 hours on Friday I felt I had gotten a decent painting and was fearful of doing more and messing it up. 
I walked to the port-a-potties then to the car to get our lunches and came back to see how the others were doing.   Maria was finished and the others were wrapping up.   I left my lunch with Maria to watch and went back down to the rocks to clean up my stuff.  There I found my brushes all over the rocks!!  A seagull had apparently flown down to snatch what he though might be a snack and LUCKILY dropped the bag of brushes on the rocks and not over the side of the cliff!  Just then I heard a loud yell.  When I returned to find out what was going on, I found that as Maria had turned her head away, another fearless gull had grabbed my PB & J sandwich bag right out of a big paper lunch bag and flown off with it!  We stood on the cliff and watched as the gulls fought over my lunch, (Maria even took a photo!) then later we walked down to the sandy area where my lunch was no more and chatted as Maria and Sharon ate their lunch.

No worries... I'm a LONG way off from starving to death and it only made the day more memorable!!
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The 6x8 Painting That Almost Cost Me $250+

"Time Worn"
8"x6" Oil on RayMar Canvas

If you are interested in purchasing this little gem, click HERE to contact me.

The last two days have been absolutely GORGEOUS!  After last week's unusual deluge and a follow up weak rainy front this week, we spoiled SoCal inhabitants were accepting of the needed rain but longed for our normal sunshiny weather.  Well, it's back!!

After dropping Tyler off at school, I went for my bi-weekly almost four-mile-walk down to Gelson's and back.  When I got home I still had about three hours before I needed to be in Tyler's class to volunteer.  It was an almost physical need that pulled me outside to paint.  Have YOU ever felt like that???  I debated whether to do the bills or work on club business, but it was so beautiful outside, I talked to myself and decided that I could squeeze in a little time in the nearby Caballero Canyon to paint something small.  What joy!  

I walked down into the canyon and had decided to paint something which included the very interesting rounded, water-weather rocks that are near the path where I have painted frequently before.  It wasn't a long hike and I settled in quickly.  In my mind, I had also planned NOT to hide out as I frequently do when painting outside in public... I set up right by the path that hikers, joggers and bikers pass by and told myself that I needed to get over my reluctance to talk to people.  I steeled myself for the thoughtless questions that I've heard in the past like, "Are you any good?" and "What is it that you're painting?"  I told myself I need to practice how to handle these questions and use them to grow with.

I started with a small 6x8 canvas orange-toned canvas board and sketched in the scene then quickly decided on the value pattern and began to lay in the paint.  I tried not to be stingy with the paint as I so often am.   I had SUCH a good time!  The first people to come over to see my work didn't say anything unkind and the lady even commented on how pretty the "salmon" color was.  "Well," I said to myself, "hmmmmm..."   (The salmon color was actually the toned canvas that I hadn't painted yet.)  But this reminded me that one of the things I was trying to achieve was to include interesting and "pretty" color in the scene as well as interesting brush-work.  So I started mixing up some salmony paint and off I went.  

When I had finished the painting and was starting to clean up, another couple walked by and asked to "look".  They had originally asked if I was painting "something in particular or the whole scene ... this said as they waived off into the distance"...  When they came over to look, I told them that I was focusing on the rocks that had been rounded and worn down by water and left in the canyon.  As they got behind me and the easel, they commented that the painting was prettier than the scene.  I laughed because I THINK it was meant as a compliment.  ;oD

I  cleaned up and was back home in time to eat lunch before heading off to help in Tyler's computer class.  THEN I realized I couldn't find my camera!!  PANIC!!!.....  I stuffed down my lunch and headed back into the canyon....  NO CAMERA......  What had been a terrific morning had become a disaster!!...  I even had paint all over my clean shirt!!

When I got home from my volunteer duties, I dumped everything out from my purse, then my trunk then I scanned the floorboards of my car and I FINALLY found the camera UNDER my Easy-L palette at the bottom of my backpack....  Thank goodness...   All in all a near perfect day!
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Selling, Schmoozing and Revisiting Work

"Canyon Shadows"
14" X 18" - Oil on Canvas

Email me, please, if you're interested in purchasing this painting.

(detail on below right)

It has been an interesting two weeks.  I've been painting and thinking, talking to lots of people about my work at the "Urban Spaces" Exhibit at La Galeria Gitana, and happily delivering a few paintings that I've sold!!   I also recently was contacted by a person in Minnesota who requested some note cards.   This resulted in my reviewing some of my older work and going in to rework it and repost it. 

Several years ago I had painted a scene from a summer trip with the family.  We visited the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.  We also visited the Little Colorado Canyon which I recalled as a child and again as a young mother for its terrifying straight-down no-rail canyons.   They were also awe inspiring and beautiful -- just as the Grand Canyon is.  The colored layers of sandstone turn all sorts of colors as the light and shadows dance across them.

Trying to capture the beautiful colors and dancing light, I had painted a scene to remind me of this trip.   However after "finishing" it, I found some glaring issues which made me unhappy with the painting, so I put it away.   The note card request inspired me to browse through my paintings and I decided to rework this one so it was more pleasing to me.   I fixed some "floating grasses", added some darks and some highlights and now I'm happier with it.
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Goals For a Beautiful Sunshiny 2010

  "Winter In The Valley"

14" x 18" Oil on RayMar Canvas
For sale at La Galeria Gitana  - $550

I was driving home from shopping this morning.  The rains have stopped, the sun is shining and the far mountains are COVERED with glorious sparkling snow.   I saw the same view I had finished painting early in January.   It was so beautiful!!...  I'm ready for tonight's show...  But I remembered something I haven't yet done... 

 My plan to set new goals for 2010 has been a bit delayed... first by a wonderful family holiday, then by trying to get ready for the URBAN SPACES show that is opening tonight, then by "stuff", and then by our unusual rainy days.   Okay... lots of excuses, so now I'm moving on..

I was pleased that I set goals for last year... I think they helped my focus and although I didn't meet all of them, I got a sense of accomplishment from those I met and surpassed.  I will do the same for 2010... set reasonable, attainable goals to kind of steer me on my way.

Here they are:
  • Increase my painting skills though continual daily painting AND by taking workshops and classes from artists I admire.
  • Paint en plein air AT LEAST three times a month.
  • Learn from other painters by blogging and looking at their work on their blogs.
  • Better evaluate the juried shows I enter.  Follow the advice set out by Alyson Stanfield in her posts:  "Knowing When It's Time To Move On" and "Assessing Juried Art Exhibits".   NOTE TO SELF:  Carefully re-read her book, "I'd rather be in the studio".
  • Sketch or draw at least weekly.
  • Market my work ... develop my marketing skills.
  • Continue exhibiting in "La Galeria Gitana" and seek other appropriate venues to exhibit my work...  (Make sure to have a good "body of work" in order to do that!!)
  • Accept and complete one or more commissions.
  • Sell 50% more paintings (and make more $) than in 2009.
I don't know if I'll achieve all of these goals, but nothing ventured... nothing gained.

If you're interesting in receiving my monthly newsletter, please click the link HERE.
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It's Raining, It's Pouring

Today was the day the San Fernando Valley Art Club had scheduled a paint out.   I know several of us were looking forward to it, but when the weatherman said it would be raining all week, we pretty much knew it was not to be.

We Southern Californians are pretty much weather wimps.   The worst weather we have is really drought.  Our storms are too often FIRE storms from hot winds and vegetation which is too dry.  We've been trying to conserve water for a while and this year we went on mandatory conservation measures.  Rain is not unknown, but when we get it -- it's not too much to worry about. 

Well... This week is a bit abnormal for us.  We've had storms....   WET, WILD, AND WINDY STORMS!  I was soaked through and through yesterday when I went to deliver a painting to a client and then got stuck on a major freeway for an hour and a half because one of the freeway's drains had stopped up and formed a LAKE on the freeway!  Today I went out to get gas at just the wrong time.  As I put the gas nozzle into the car suddenly the overhang shade "roof" let lose with a WATERFALL right over my head!...   Oh well, at least I won't melt.   I can whine and whine but in reality we really need this water...   Hopefully a snow pack is building up in our mountains which will relieve some of the drought conditions in the year to come.

I made the decision to spend the rest of the week indoors.  So instead of painting outside en plein air, I painted a rainy scene while I was inside... nice and dry and warm.  This is an evening wet street scene remeniscent of some of the paintings I did for my upcoming show "URBAN SPACES:  The San Fernando Valley".  This little 6x8, called "It's Raining, It's Pouring!" isn't one of the 15 paintings in the show, so if you're interested in purchasing it, please click HERE to contact me.

Although several storms are expected to come through even into the next week, a break is expected between the storms for the weekend.   This is good news as my show is opening on Saturday night and I am hoping that many people are able to make it out to see the wonderful art.  If you live in or around the San Fernando Valley, this show will be a fun look at the urban scenes we are most familiar with.   I'm very excited to be a part of this group show with exceptional artists that I have long admired.   Come on by!

La Galeria Gitana

120 N. Maclay Avenue Ste. E
San Fernando, CA  91340
(located just behind Cold Stone Creamery on Maclay)
(818) 898-7708

Opening Reception:  Saturday, January 23, 2010   6-10 p.m.

Come see the art and meet the artists:
Karen Anable-Nichols, Susanne Belcher, Donna Geist Buch, Jose De Juan, Marian Fortunati, Teri Garcia, Irena Jablonski, Trish Kertes, Chuck Kovacic, Jennifer McChristian, Darlene Mellein, Tony Peters,
Ellen Rundle, Alex Schaefer, Jennelle Song, Beth Summers, Loraine Veeck, Mary Kay Wilson

Just click on the underlined links to see images of my paintings and details about them:


I  would like to offer you the opportunity to sign up to receive my newsletter.  I send it out once each month or every other month.

Thanks to each of you for reading the blog and for cheering me on.  Being able to share my work with you is one of the main reasons I keep painting and trying to become a better artist.  It's wonderful to hear from you now and then and I love seeing those of you who can come to exhibition receptions when I'm there.

A special thanks to those of you who have purchased my work.  I'm very honored by your support!
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Catching The Sunshine While We Can

"Eaton Canyon Rocks"
Oil on Canvas Board 

If you are interested in purchasing this painting, please contact me HERE.

Almost every Thursday a group of painters loosely called the "Thursday Morning Irregulars", who are mostly from the nearby San Gabriel Valley, get together to paint outdoors.  It's a nice group of painters some of whom use oils, others acrylics and watercolors.  Skill levels vary from somewhat new to painting outdoors or using a specific medium to really very expert painters.

Although they usually meet at a location which is quite far for me to drive, I enjoy going... both because I like to paint with my artist friend, Sharon Weaver, and because at the end of each session the group breaks for lunch and one or two of the more expert painters is willing to critique all of the artwork so that each painter can learn how to make better paintings.  Usually Brenda Swenson critiques the watercolor work and Walter McNally does the oil work.  If one isn't there, the other does it or if neither is there, we all offer opinions.  Everyone is supportive and the aim is to help us all become better artists.  It's a special opportunity.

Sharon, who lives much further east from me, is a regular "Irregular" (LOL).   I just tag along when I can.  Thursday was a GORGEOUS morning... probably the last for a while, because heavy rains are scheduled for our area next week.   I hiked down into the riverbed to set up.   Eaton Canyon has a wonderful wide mostly-dry riverbed filled with jumbled rocks and I wanted to try to capture that in my plein air study.  I took an 11x14 ochre toned canvas and tried to get something down in the 2 1/2 hours before the critique. 

I was pretty satisfied with my painting, but Walter apparently wasn't.  He talked about artists who let the "technique" get it the way of the beautiful scene.   Hmmmmm.   (I wasn't aware that I HAD a "technique".)   Although I tried to get him to clarify, I was left clueless as to how to improve the painting.  My friend, Sharon, suggested that I need to try not to put in large blocks of pre-mixed colors but rather paint so that the eye blends the colors on the canvas.   Okay...

When I came home (still fairly clueless) I decided to just make some adjustments that I thought would improve the painting ....  I think I was successful.

All it all it was a fun day... Beautiful place, gorgeous weather, lots of nice people, and good practice... I'll be back with the group again as soon as I can.
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Happy Holidays

Holiday Greetings Newsletter From Marian Fortunati

I hope this newsletter finds you enjoying this holiday season by savoring your time with family, friends, good conversation and good food.

May the New Year bring you interesting challenges and enjoyable opportunities.

I have had a wonderful year both personally and on my art journey, and I have many of you to credit for making it that way.

I offer a special thank you to those of you who have collected my work.  I so appreciate your faith and enjoyment of the art.  Please feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone else that you think might be interested.

I've enjoyed meeting many people through my blog (www.marianfortunati.com/blog).   Not only have I learned from those who make comments and other bloggers that I visit, but I've received encouragement and the people who leave thoughts have helped me look at things in a different way.  It's always thrilling, too, to meet the people with whom I've had "conversations" through comments on my blog and visiting their sites.   I've even been able to go out to paint with some of them. Please join in on the conversation if you ever have a moment.

My family and I will be cruising to beautiful Hawaii over the holidays, but I'll still try to do some painting and blogging so drop in and share a thought.

I have a few shows coming up in January and would love to see you if you are in the area:

   I'll have many works in a group show at La Galeria Gitana in San Fernando, CA.
Urban Spaces - The San Fernando Valley
The reception will be on Saturday, January 23, 2010 from 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

I've had fun working on this show as the subject matter has been a bit different for me.. but I always love a challenge.  I hope you put this on your calendar because I'd love to see you there.   I'll send more details in January.

Here are a couple of my paintings that will be in the show:
                Half Lit                     Windy Day On Sherman Way

I'm very happy that another of my paintings was juried in to a National Show in Redding, California.  

I'm going to try to go up to that reception as well, but I'm not sure I can make it.    The show runs from January 26, to February 27, 2010.   The reception will be Friday, January 29, 2010 from 7:00-9:00 p.m.    I'll send more information as the event draws closer.
If you have not already signed up to receive my "almost monthly" newsletter, please click this link HERE to get your free subscription!!


I hope you have a delightful and restful Holiday time and a Happy, Happy New Year!

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Reviewing The Year 2009

I started out 2009 by setting goals for the year.   HERE is a link to that post with my 2009 goals.  Some of them were fairly lofty but I had admired the way that several artists that I look up to had set goals and I decided it was a good way to help me find my way on this painting journey I'm on.

Happily, I've achieved most of them... ... I'll continue working on some of them even though I've made progress... I'm not yet there, and of course, I failed miserably to achieve one or two.   In chatting with my artists friends, I've come to believe that as we achieve some of our goals, we sort of lift the ladder up a bit and keep on working at a higher level on them... Others need to be caste aside and new different goals should be set.

Examples of those ongoing types of goals:
I'll probably be working on values for the rest of my painting life.... I'm better, but may never be "there".

I've been painting and painting... but probably don't have enough really quality work of one genre to have a one person show yet... 

Although I marketed my work each time there was an out of town show, I have no idea whether it reached a receptive audience.... will need to work on that some more.

Dismal failures were:
I did NOT sketch... just sketch 3 times a week.   (I sketched to paint, but not just to sketch.)
I didn't do any commissions except for the family.

My major successes were:
My work was shown in juried shows in Wisconsin, Redding, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Montrose, CA, Pasadena, CA and several other non-local venues.
I did sell many more paintings than I did in 2008 -  50% + more in both quantity and revenue.
My work has been shown in two different group gallery shows.
I received several awards for different paintings... always a nice thing.

I've been working on a series of paintings for a show in January that celebrates urban spaces in the San Fernando Valley.   The painting on this post is one of those.   It's titled "Windy Day On Sherman Way".  It's 12x16 inches.

I'll now need to sit back and decide how to modify existing goals, dropping some and adding new ones.  All in all I'd say it was a satisfying year -- both from the painting and life in general points of views.  I hope yours was as well!!
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Close To Home

"Caballero Colors"
14x11 - Oil on Board   SOLD

Email me, please, if you're interested in purchasing this painting.

I always love to go outside to paint.  It renews me... it's great to get outdoors and see the beauty... right now the fall colors are amazing ... but it's also a good excuse to hike around a bit, so I feel like I'm helping my physical health as well as my emotional health.

All of my painting buddies were otherwise occupied so I had decided to paint alone again.  When I was at the reception on Sunday I had overheard someone talking about hiking in the canyon.  It reminded me that I really don't need to go far to find a beautiful place to paint.   I've painted in Caballero Canyon many times.  It is really VERY close to my home.

This time when I walked down in the canyon all I could do was smile... The trees were ablaze with color.  It was hard to decide just WHERE to stop and paint.  This time, however, the grasses were quite high.  Since this canyon is also a place where mountain bikers come tearing around corners unexpectedly I had to stay far off the path, but I didn't want to be in the middle of high grasses... not just because of the difficulty of seeing through the grass, but because I didn't want to engage with the native population of bugs, snakes, birds, and other creatures.   I found this spot after hiking down into the dry creek bed and up the creek a bit.   It was gorgeous.

I had decided to try painting a bit larger than I have been doing.  I've admired those painters who paint large plein air pieces.  Mine was still only 14x11 but it was a bit bigger than my normal 8x10s.  One has to start somewhere.  When I started off, I realized a couple of problems.  I had failed to replenish my container of liquin.. and I was using a board covered with gesso tinted a light green.  The board and lack of liquin caused me some issues with the paint spreading or rather NOT spreading, -- the gesso seemed to suck the paint up ... too much drag...  but it also resulted in some interesting "dry brush" techniques.   In the end I liked my painting.   At home I used liquin to restate the sky and some of the sycamore leaves....  No plein air police stopped me so.. I'm okay.  

I must return before all of the leaves fall..   The seasons are rather short here in SoCal.  Does anyone want to join me???
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"Why Do We Paint?"

I had a rather unique and special opportunity yesterday.  Even though getting into juried shows (Lagoon and Storm Clouds Over The Valley) is still very special to me and being honored with an award (see picture on right) is even nicer, what was quite unique and wonderful about yesterday's SFVAC reception at VIVA Gallery was that the juror, DAVID GALLUP, was generous enough with his time to come and talk to the artists -- both those in the show and those who had pieces that were juried out.  Frankly, I think it took a very conscientious yet self assured person to do this.  I was even more impressed with David Gallup as a person than I already am impressed with his art... and I LOVE his art!  You'll see what I mean if you go to his website:  www.dgallup.com .

Initially I was busy talking to friends, but then I noticed that David was spending a lot of time talking to individual artists, so I sort of lurked around and listened.  He was explaining why he especially liked a certain piece or another and even gave suggestions to artists who had had a piece juried out.   He had written comments about those that had received awards and also about those that had been juried out.  Artists were told that they could request his comments from the show chairperson, but David was also doing it in person.  As I listened, he told a story about a student he had been working with while painting outside en plein air.   A child walked up to the student and asked why she painted.  Later when she recounted the story to David, he asked her what she had said..... "..because it's fun" was her answer.  

He told us that that had gotten him thinking.  Honestly his next statement almost had me want to hug him because he said almost what I was thinking in my head...   These aren't his exact words... just my paraphrasing but here goes:
  .... When I paint outdoors in all the beauty that is around us I feel a part of nature and a sense of spirituality.  I'm not traditionally religious, but seeing and really looking as I paint makes me feel one with the creator of all of that I see........    Although he does do some SERIOUS studio work..  he paints because of the experience he has when he paints outdoors.  Even though David is far more successful than I, and his work is quite wonderful,  I feel just the same when I'm outside painting!     

Why do YOU paint???
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Monthly California Art Club Paint Out At King Gillette Ranch

"Oak Knoll"
8x10 Oil on Canvas

My friend, Sharon Weaver, and I enjoy painting outdoors together and now that the California Art Club is hosting monthly paint outs, we've been trying to participate.  We were scheduled to meet the organizer, George Malone, at King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains on Mulholland near Las Virgenes Road.  It does seem however, that most of the clubs that do paint-outs meet on Thursdays.  I sure wish they would choose different days of the week!  Oh well.

We arrived early and found the place absolutely filled with cars from movie/TV companies.. Apparently there were two film companies there.   There were so many cars, we couldn't find any other painters so we headed off to find a good place for ourselves.  Up on a hill filled with ground squirrel or gopher holes I found a beautiful oak tree spreading out over the damp grassy hillside and Sharon found a huge and elegant eucalyptus further up the hillside.   We had a GREAT morning painting.  When we both reached a stopping point, we drove around until we found a group of painters and there we found George along with Diana Austin and Nita Harper painting away.   We all sat down and chatted about art and life... It was a fine day!!

On another note:
Today (Sunday) I helped out at the take in for my local art club's (the San Fernando Valley Art Club) exhibition at VIVA Gallery.  All of you who have ever helped work at an exhibition know that it takes a whole lot of talented and hard working people working together to produce a successful show.  Almost 100 paintings were entered but unfortunately because of gallery size limitations not all of them could be hung.  We had a fun day together - especially when we were kicked out of the gallery so the juror could do his work in peace.  We all went out to lunch.  It was a long day and I really appreciate all the work and organization (led by Regina Wolford) it took to pull it off.

The juror for this show was David Gallup, a wonderful and well respected artist, who has recently completed a series of beautiful paintings documenting the Channel Islands and the wildlife found there.  His paintings will be shared at various venues across the country in the coming year.   Check out his website for more information.

I felt honored and fortunate that BOTH of my paintings were juried in!!!.... One was the Lagoon painting from one of my previous posts. (I changed it yet again and separated the two white birds that had caused my husband and several fellow bloggers some issues. -- You can no longer see it the way it was during the last "restatement".) The other was a large painting I made of the view overlooking the San Fernando Valley from the hill south of my home.  It's called "Storm Clouds Over The Valley".  It was also honored with a Merchant Award.  Yay!!!   It is really affirming when artists I admire think my work is worthy of recognition!

VIVA Gallery
November 25 - December 12, 2009
RECEPTION:  November 29, 2009  4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

I'd love to chat with you at the reception next Sunday ... Come on by to see some great art!!
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Another Dam Experience

"Hansen Dam Colors"
9" x 12"
Oil on RayMar Linen Panel

I tried to get a friend to paint with me on Tuesday, but got no takers, so I decided to drive out to Hansen Dam in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley by myself.  When I was a kid, my mom used to take me horseback riding out there.  I also remember joyfully hopping from bog to bog while hunting for pollywogs.  I haven't been back to the area in years and years, but my friend, Laura Wambsgans, told me that the trees were turning and I wanted to paint there before the trees shed their fall colors.  Actually, I'm not sure they were really that spectacular - there are areas with more color a lot closer to home -, but I did enjoy the outing just the same.

Just as I set up, a man came over to chat.  It turned out he was a lifeguard in the area... Apparently there are THREE lake areas.. I was at the wildlife preserve area.  His first question was, "Are you any good?"........  Hmmmm... I really wondered what he expected me to say to that question.  At the same time I was happy I really hadn't painted anything yet.  Apparently he realized how insensitive the question was, and the conversation turned out to be rather nice as we had some things in common. 

It was a nice morning except for the curious black ants that kept crawling up my legs, arms and easel.  Happily they weren't in the mood to bite, being content just to tickle me, and the more aggressive red ants stayed away.  As it began to heat up, I finished up and headed home in time to eat some lunch then pick up Tyler for his Tuesday "early out".
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Half Lit II

"Half Lit II"
16" x 20"
Oil on RayMar Canvas

A while back I attempted a painting of the liquor store and neon clown that advertises Circus Liquor, a store in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.  (See previous painting HERE.) I liked what I had done, but I wasn't really satisfied with it and decided to try it again.

I painted a slightly different view and made it larger.  My goal was to keep the interesting sky but enhance it a bit with really thick paint (see detail) and to try to better achieve the look of evening descending with lights shining out from the liquor store and the buildings behind.  I'm still not sure whether I should further darken the foreground areas..... or add more paint to the sky areas.   Does anyone have an opinion???

As before, I liked the idea that the iconic clown sign was only partially fun
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Behind The Dam

"Behind the Dam"
Oil on linen

There are so many places around that I never explored until I started painting outdoors.  Well, sure, I'd drive by some of them, but I didn't really SEE them.  In fact, when I first began taking a plein air class years ago with Karl Dempwolf we went places in this city where I have lived my entire life that I had never seen before.  It made me realize how little I really had seen of my own city.

Painting outdoors has also opened up my own nearby neighborhoods.  Never before would I hike behind the bushes and rows of trees to go down to the dam.  On Tuesday I went with Lani Emanuel once again to explore.   I am trying to capture some urban scenes and wanted to get another opportunity to paint the Sepulveda Dam.  I had gone down into the basin once before last spring [see HERE or HERE], but since then have been warned numerous times by my friends that painting by myself in areas like this is foolish.  Lani painted the view looking toward the dam but I turned away from the dam and painted the Burbank bridge.

There was plenty of water flowing, but it is still hard to imagine that the entire area is totally underwater during LA's short rainy season.  In fact, I remember one year a few years back when a fire truck got stranded on that bridge while it was standing by to rescue anyone swept downstream by the fast rushing water.  The water rose so quickly the fire truck was unable to leave since the bridge was "high" ground.

Lani and I tried to go down the side of the water that I had gone in the spring but the water was higher and neither of us wanted to walk through the muck.  So we backtracked and went back across the bridge and down on the the other side.   It was a beautiful day ... actually almost hot.   Although they say it might rain tomorrow... Tuesday was sunny in Southern California.

I had LOTS OF GREAT NEWS over the weekend.  Ill let you know all about it in an upcoming post.


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Plein Air In The Valley

Last week an email message popped up on my computer from a gal I had met in my portrait and still life class taught by Johanna Spinks.  Lani had started the class at LAAFA to pursue her interests in portraiture, but she was already very good.  Lani Emanuel had completed her art studies at the Art Center in Pasadena. I hadn't heard from her in a while, so I emailed back to see what she was up to.   Turns out she lives not too far away and was interested in doing some plein air painting.

Sepulveda Basin Plein Air
8"x10" Oil on RayMar Canvas

We met last Wednesday at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Preserve and had a great time exchanging ideas -- she's had some great experiences -- and laughs.  The basin was filled with beautiful egrets, happy cormorants and a large variety of other birds.  The Audubon Society was even there preparing for classes for children.... what a treat for them!

I tried to paint big SHAPES and not noodle the painting to death.  I used the palette knife some as well as the brush.   I was trying to build up some interesting texture but keep the values correct.  I had started with a red toned canvas and I liked the way the complementary red still showed through the green foliage.  Although I was happy with the overall look of the study, upon reflection (no pun intended) I would have made the light area in the water appear less rough to indicate the relative calm of the water  - although their WAS a breeze - and done more with the colors reflected in the water.  I think we both had a nice time and enjoyed painting in a beautiful area.
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Lagoon II -- A Painting Revisited

"Lagoon II"
16" x 12"
Oil on Raymar Canvas

On Saturday I finished my Christmas Card painting....(Yeah... finally something ahead of schedule.)   I'll post more about that one in a blog post later on.

I finally did a "redoux" on my "Lagoon" painting from several months ago.  The first time I posted it most people had said they liked it ... maybe because I said I enjoyed painting it so much, but two artists I admire and from whom I requested critiques, made suggestions that I've tried to incorporate in this version.   My friend and art teacher, Johanna Spinks, felt that the land mass above the black bird.. (heron??) was uninteresting... nothing to look at.  Then later I took the painting with me to Greg LaRock's workshop because he offered to critique a few paintings if we brought them with us.  He said the same thing about the first land mass and also suggested that the way the painting was divided into two sections by the water in the middle sort of made the painting look like it should be cut in half and made into two paintings.  Greg talked a lot in his workshop about paying attention to the "path" we as artists want to help the viewers' eyes to travel as they view our paintings.

For whatever reason, last Saturday night as I was sleeping, my mind settled on this painting and planned some changes.   (Do we ever REALLY sleep???)  So on Sunday I decided to drag it out and repaint "revisit" it.  The background and second land mass seemed to work fine so I left them as they were.  I worked again on making the grasses more interesting using color and brushwork.  I actually painted on a printed image of the painting to see how I could change the shape of the foreground land mass so that it didn't cut the painting in half... then when I was happy with the idea, painted it on the actual painting..... such is the beauty of oil painting... If you don't like it... paint right over it and cover up the old part.   Then to add more interesting places to draw the eyes, I added two egrets coming in for a landing... or taking off... not sure.

The original scene was from a visit to the Malibu Lagoon sometime last year.  The Lagoon is just north of the Adamson House in my previous posts and also north of the Malibu pier and Surfrider's Beach.

I think I like this version better!!


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Belfast Harbor - Google - Virtual Paint Out

I've been working on a painting that I will be using for this year's Christmas card, but suddenly realized that I had almost missed Bill Guffey's month-end deadline for his Virtual Paint Out Blog.  So between answering the doorbell last night on Halloween, I quickly painted this little scene and sent it to Bill.

Bill is an artist who has chosen to paint the world "virtually".  He uses Google and visits various places around the world and chooses views to paint.   He became quite well known as he painted and posted views from every state in the United States (except Hawaii which doesn't yet have street views) using views from Google.  Since then, he has started his new blog... the Virtual Paint Out Blog..... where he chooses a city in the world and challenges other painters to use street view to find a view to paint.

I had never done it, so when I was researching Belfast, Ireland, which was October's city, I inadvertently chose one of the photos that people post on Google Maps rather than actually using street view.   I painted this little 5"x7" view of Belfast Harbor between trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.   Luckily, I didn't invest too much time in it, because it didn't qualify.  I really didn't realize that the STREET VIEW photos are different than those that are posted under images on the Google Maps.... because of that, this one didn't qualify for the paint out.           :o(               (Even though Bill quite clearly states that in the directions.... sigh... guess I really should learn to read directions.)

It was kind of fun, but if you're going to try it, make sure to use the street views and not the posted photo images!!
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More Fun With A Palette Knife

"Eucalyptus Grove"
Oil on board

I wanted to play some more with the palette knife and decided to try a little landscape.  I used a photo that I had liked of a Eucalyptus grove with flowers blooming in the foreground. 

Obviously, I need to practice techniques which will vary the strokes of the palette knife, but I sure enjoy pushing all that thick paint around.....    AND you don't need to wash the brushes afterward!!

Besides... I kind of like this little painting!
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Sun, Sand, Wind and Laughter in Ventura

Last Wednesday one of the members of the San Fernando Valley Art Club invited several of us up to his summer home in Ventura to paint. 

Terry is a great guy who generously opened up his home to us and shared this special spot near a marina and the beach with all of us.  We had a fun time painting and laughing together in the beautiful clear and breezy day. 

The choices of where to paint were vast.  We could have chosen the marina, the trees in the park, or several areas near the beach.  Sharon, Terry, Jackie and I chose to paint out on the point between the marina and the beach.

I painted the dunes, ice plants and grasses alongside Jackie, while Sharon Weaver found a terrific Monterey pine which was the foil for a background of water and boats.   Terry was on the other side of the dunes.  Janet stayed closer to the park and painted the marina area. 

After I had done all I could do on the dune painting I tried to paint near the marina but didn't get too much done.  I did enjoy sharing my spot with a couple of fishermen, however.  They told me that they often catch halibut right off the dock!

I did have some trouble painting on the dock because it was one of those docks that moves up and down with the waves and of course it made it more difficult to actually make the brush and paint go where I wanted it to.  I really began to appreciate the painters of old who painted from boats floating down a river or on a lake a lot more!!

Thank you so much, Terry.   We all enjoyed chatting and talking about our paintings while munching on fruit and muffins!   What a GREAT day!
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Back To School Night

"On The Way Back To School"
Oil on RayMar Board

Last week was Back To School Night at Tyler's school.  My husband and I got there just on time but, of course, the lot was full as were all the close up parking places.

The good news is that when we parked at the end of the block across the grassy yard of the neighboring middle school, the sun was just setting and the trees of the school were silhouetted against a gorgeous sky.  I carry my camera with me everywhere so I whipped it out and took a couple of shots before we went to meet the fourth grade teacher at Back To School Night.  I think we got lucky again this year... She's a winner!

I've painted several other sunsets from right outside my home.  The colors are always so varied and so gorgeous!  This one's from the school yard about a mile away.  Gosh it's beautiful around here!  There's no escaping the fact that the best art is regularly created all around us.
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Half Lit

"Half Lit"
12" x 18"
Oil on canvas

I've been entranced with the many artists' work who depict seemingly mundane things in our city and who are able to create a scene in their painting that is both interesting and attractive.

It's a lot easier to admire their work than to emulate it.

This is another in my series of scenes from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. Circus Liquor has one of those iconic landmark neon signs that used to be more common around town. When I went by the corner to take pictures of the store and the well-known sign, the light was fading and so was the sign. Half of the neon lights were out of order.

Portraying twilight is a skill in itself which people like Nancy Popenoe do very well. I'll keep trying. In the meantime, enjoy my effort to catch a moment in time.

I also hope the title I gave the painting makes you smile!!
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Sometimes it's hard to say "it's done".

I keep thinking this painting is finished and set it aside to look at and enjoy it.................. but then I say...

(LEFT... when it was first "finished")

"Well... it needs a little change here. (Make the green grass have less chroma... grey it out a bit...) The next day... another change...(Darken and better solidify the upper left leafy areas.)

"Not Yet Named"
Oil on RayMar Canvas
(LEFT... "finished" version two.)

Then again.... Well... perhaps it needs a bit more here (Add some intense color in the light areas... leaves in the sunlight...foreground sunlit patch.) And the last time... maybe the mid-ground trunks need to have edges which are more "lost"... and maybe the foreground trunks need to be more defined.

As I worked I also tried to keep in mind a recent post I read by Keith Bond called "The Triple Impact", discussing the importance of the "view" of a painting from a distance, from a "normal" distance and then close up. (GREAT article... well worth reading.)

Well... I'm not even sure if most people can see the little changes I've made, but I'm hoping the end product (the one on the upper right) is now "done". What do YOU think?

This is a scene that caught my eye on my regular walk down and back up the street to go to Gelson's. Alongside the street is El Caballero Golf Course and this time as I was walking, I saw the sunlight as it caught some of the Sycamore's leaves and lit them up... contrasting with the hazy look of all the background trees. It was a soft/hard ....greyed out yet colorful scene that I just had to try to capture and share. I hope I did.

Now, silly as it seems, I'm also struggling with a title. I started with "Through The Trees" then changed to "Filtered Sunlight". Not sure which is best or if there is an even better one lurking out there. Any ideas???
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VOTE NOW!!!!... (VOTING IS CLOSED.. read to bottom to see results)

"Pleasant Portal"

"Mighty Oak"

"Dappled Sun"

Okay.... One of my many problems as an artist is trying to decide the relative quality of my work.

I recently completed these three paintings for a plein air event. I don't want to submit all of them... only one or two, and had evaluated them in my mind to decide which ones to submit.

Then I asked my husband. Surprisingly.. or maybe not ... his choices were pretty much just the opposite as the ones I had selected. Obviously we all have different tastes and I acknowledge that, but where does the eye for what is "good" come in?

I need YOUR opinion asap. There is a poll somewhere... (I've never done this before.) Please let me know which 10"x 8" painting(s) you think I should submit. (Choose one or two.)

WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE???   Since I can't figure out how to import the POLL widget from Blogger into FASO, here is the link to my blogspot blog.....

Please vote.   Leave a comment if you want to also!!

Oh... my artist friend, Leslie, says I should let you know that the theme of the event is "City Of Trees".

THANKS!! Happy painting!!

I want to thank all of you who took a minute to "vote" your opinion. I also heard from some of you via comments but wasn't sure if you ALSO voted or commented INSTEAD of voting. This was an interesting exercise for me... both in trying out the poll widget feature and in seeing how different people view art so differently. I would love to know if there is a way to include the widget in the actual post.. but this worked well enough.

These are the results of the actual poll (not counting any who commented and didn't actually VOTE.
Pleasant Portal ...(I later changed the name to Welcome Home)
15 (50%)
Mighty Oak
7 (23%)
Dappled Sunlight
14 (46%)

This was pretty much my original view, but some people whose opinion I REALLY admire voted for Mighty Oak, so I almost broke down and paid the extra bucks to enter it too... but didn't... --cheapness won out.

I worked on take in and saw the items submitted today to the California Art Club / South Pasadena Chamber "City Of Trees" Exhibit and Sale and have to say that the quality of work was absolutely wonderful.... even better than last year, I think! 

If you live near South Pasadena, don't miss it. The show will hang Friday night, and Saturday at the South Pasadena Library Community Center. Jurying and SALES will take place on these days. Any work juried into the SoPas museum will then show there for a month. Last year one of my pieces was juried in AND sold... a real thrill for me.

Thanks again for your help!!
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Los Angeles' River

I've been struggling with deciding which path to take on this art journey of mine. The trouble is that I enjoy so many painter's work and types of paintings and painting styles. I want to paint well no matter what the subject matter... be it figurative, landscape, urban cityscapes or whatever... I'm not really interested in abstract so.. I guess I've narrowed down the field A BIT.

Although I've been very fortunate to be juried in to some rather nice shows lately, I keep looking for the next venue.... WHY I'm not sure. Just because I guess. Trying to find things to paint which might "fit" certain potential venues does continue to provide me with challenges and helps me develop my skills while discovering new things to fascinate me along the way.

Anyway... one of the genre I decided to begin exploring this summer (along with trees) is urban landscapes. I'm fascinated with artists who manage to find beauty in the most mundane places in our city. I was very happy with my little bus stop scene that I painted en plein air and am trying to decide whether it is worth it to try to make a bigger version in the studio. Not far from that site was another typical scene from the San Fernando Valley. It's part of our wonderful Los Angeles River which is a diverse ... mostly concrete river system that flows through the Valley, through Los Angeles and to the ocean. What is mostly dry during the dog days of summer becomes a roaring death trap during those rare times when storms douse our area. It seems that each year, some unaware teenage biker or homeless vagabond who usually plays or lives in this river system is caught up and swept swiftly toward the sea.

I came across this quote and thought I'd share it as I aspire to live by it.... Like my dad has always done:
"And in the end it's not the years in your
life that count. It's the life in your years."

- Abraham Lincoln
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September Newsletter

I send out a newsletter at the mid point of each month with info about shows, paintings, etc.
This was the September newsletter that I sent out.

There are some receptions locally coming up in the next two weekends.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Marian Fortunati's September Art Newsletter

It's hard to believe but school has started and Fall is on the way. -The days seem to fly by, don't they?

My Dad's 91st birthday is coming up at the end of the month. To honor him, I decided to set up the newsletter header using my painting of Dad and my grandson, Tyler. I titled it ,"The Lesson". It was a precious moment we shared a while back. Tyler was teaching my Dad how to access the Lego website. I like to paint these "casual family" moments" to keep them precious and current in our minds.

If you have photos of special events or times that your family has shared, I'd love to create a painting for you. Just contact me through my website and let me know what you have in mind.

Dad is really an amazing guy! He'll be 91 and he's quite adept with Internet use, email, and even makes amateur videos, but in the "special moment" that I painted, he still patiently let his great-grandson "teach" him how to play on the Lego website. Lately, Dad's also been writing short stories which he would love to send to you to read and enjoy. If you send him an email requesting one, I'm sure he'll send a copy of one of them. Right now, however, he's working to meet a deadline for an ambitious video related to my Venetian romance and marriage. I hope I can still create and figure things out as well as my Dad does when I'm 91!

This month I am pleased to announce that my painting, "Celestial Dragon" will be part of a group show called "Sacred Art / All Things Spiritual" at La Galeria Gitana, a beautiful gallery in San Fernando where I've been fortunate to show my work before.

La Galeria Gitana

120 N. Maclay Avenue, Suite #E
San Fernando, CA 91340

Park behind the gallery which is located behind Cold Stone Creamery

This show runs from Saturday, September 26, 2009 until December 24, 2009

Noon - 6:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday
(818) 989-7708

Reception: 9/26/2009 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Also -- exciting to me -- is that my work was juried in to:

The Richeson 75: International
Landscape, Seascape & Architectural Art Competition 2009

October 16-December 31, 2009
Gallery Exhibit and Virtual Gallery open
Friday October 16, 2009: Reception & Awards Ceremony.

557 Marcella St.
Kimberly, WI 54136-0160
(920) 738-0744 (800) 233-2404

The Jack Richeson Company is a leading supplier of high quality art materials. As part of our mission to support the arts community we sponsor six, international, juried art exhibitions a year. The purpose of our show is offer a venue for both established and emerging artists to show their latest work to a wide and appreciative audience. Each show is physically presented in the Richeson Art Gallery in Kimberly Wisconsin and virtually presented at the Richeson 75 web site. We also extend our reach through an interactive newsletter, the Richeson Virtual Art Salon, to thousands of galleries, collectors and artists around the world.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the reception, but I'm still proud to have my work displayed in their gallery and in their catalog.

I don't usually participate in art fairs, but my local community center, The Tarzana Community Cultural Center, on the corner of Ventura Blvd and Van Alden, in Tarzana, CA, is hosting the members of one of my local clubs, The San Fernando Valley Art Club, in an art sale and fair right on the grounds! It's sure to be a beautiful weekend and the corner is filled with gorgeous tall, shady trees. It will be a pleasant weekend to be there painting and hopefully visiting with old and new friends. I'll have a few of my paintings to display if anyone is interested. If you're anywhere near there, please drop by to say "Hi".

19130 Ventura Blvd. Tarzana, CA 91356 - Phone: 818.705.1286

Tarzana Community Cultural Center / SFVAC Art Fair in the Garden
Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4
10:00 p.m - 4:00 p.m

Lastly, as I've mentioned before, one never knows whether work that is submitted will be juried in to a show, but one of my local clubs, The Valley Artists' Guild (VAG), will be having a show at the VIVA gallery. I am HOPING that I will be privileged to show work in that show as well.
I will be submitting my paintings "Trinity" and "Calle Dorado".

Valley Artists' Guild Fall Exhibition

Wednesday, September 23 Saturday, October 10, 2009
Reception: October 4, 2009 -- 2PM to 4PM

VIVA Gallery, Sherman Oaks, CA

Even if my work isn't juried in to the show, there will be plenty of great art to enjoy, so try to drop by the VIVA gallery and enjoy some wonderful art.

And of course, my work will be online all year on the ARTKUDOS international exhibit. Please visit

If any of you ever want to know what I've been up to, I make frequent blog posts where I talk about my art and life in general. I always post a recent study or studio piece... sometimes showing the steps taken as I developed the painting. When I take classes and workshops, I try to capture the things I've learned and the fun I've had. You can even subscribe to it if you are interested. My website blog is called "Musings of a Painter". Please drop by and leave a comment if you want to say "hi".

I mentioned in a previous newsletter that I've been studying the work of artist Kevin Macpherson. He has two marvelous books that I keep re-reading. I'm now also watching a series of videos that he and other painter friends have done for public television called "Passport and Palette". They are wonderful short demonstrations showing how composition, values, color and lively brushwork can all be brought together to create paintings that just take your breath away. If you get a chance, take a look to find this series on your local public TV channel.

I'll also include a few of the plein air studies I've done recently to wrap up this month's newsletter. I painted these recent paintings an effort to study and learn more about trees - beautiful, graceful and sometimes inspiring gifts of nature right in our neighborhoods. These are quick studies painted outside for pleasure. (Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing one, however!) Sometimes I use these plein air pieces as a basis for larger studio pieces and sometimes, I just enjoy them as they are.

Dappled Light Looking Up Gum Tree Path

Thanks to each of you for reading my newsletter and for cheering me on. It's wonderful to hear from you now and then and I love seeing those of you who can come to exhibition receptions when I have them. A special thanks to those of you who have purchased my work! I am honored to know that scenes I've painted are in your home or your office!

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to any of your friends and colleagues who might be interested! If you received this from a friend and would like to receive my monthly newsletter, please sign up here:

The world is a beautiful place if you take the time to enjoy it....
As the popular song lyric goes.... "I hope you dance".

- Marian

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From My Front Porch

"From My Front Porch"

Oil -- 14" x 11"

I have often talked about how lucky I am to live where I do. I have beautiful views of the Santa Monica Mountains to the west and south and the San Fernando Valley to the east and north.

My neighbor, Veronica Stensby, an artist friend from one of my local clubs, "friended" me on Facebook a while ago. That was where I discovered that we are neighbors! - We live within a mile or two of one another. I discovered this because of the photos she posted on FB.

She keeps a "cloud journal" on Facebook - a photo album of the beautiful skies around her home... and mine. When I first saw her posts on FB, they reminded me of how much I love the skies around our home. I wrote to her that I have painted "our" skies a couple of times, (to see my former sunset sky posts, click here or click here), but sometimes I see skies that are so outrageously colorful and gorgeous that if I painted them people might think I had made them up.

If you're on FB, you can check out Veronica's cloud journal and you'll see some amazing sky photos... and some sort of proof that this sky did not emerge from my imagination.

This painting is of the view from my front porch earlier this month. I couldn't resist. It's really what it looked like. I'd love to share the view with you!!
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The Orange Line

Yesterday morning I had a couple of hours to paint between dropping off Tyler at school and going to my doctor's appointment, so I decided to see if I could capture an urban Valley scene.

For many years the San Fernando Valley residents had done without a really good public transportation system that would get them to work downtown. There were many many meetings and public hearings about the possibility of a subway system or even a monorail, but all ideas were disliked by one group or another.

The railroad used to use a section of line in the southern half of the valley but it hadn't been used for freight in many years. (I remember squashing pennies on the rails in the section that ran past the home in Van Nuys where I grew up and where my Dad still lives.)

A few years back the city finally got its stuff together and developed a busway. I honestly thought it was silly, but after the first few accidents, it has proven to be a wonderful, efficient and very well used transport artery. It's called the Orange Line. (I'm not sure why... the city has red buses and orange buses but the buses on the Orange Line are silver-accordion-type buses.)

I rode on the Orange Line one time when I worked downtown and couldn't use my car. It was smooth and easy... it just took longer than driving (very early in the morning before traffic stops up the 101 freeway.) It crosses the southern Valley and ends in North Hollywood where it meets with the Red Line, a subway system that goes downtown. You can actually go all the way to Pasadena or Long Beach or Redondo if you make the right connections.

Anyway, yesterday proved to be a lovely, cool overcast not-quite-fall day, and I enjoyed trying to capture this little urban scene. No one bothered me although the bus-stop was quite busy. ... Well no one bothered me until my husband snuck up behind me and began blowing in my ear!... I had never even seen or heard him approaching. He said I was totally into my measuring and sketching... (I hadn't started painting yet.)

I noticed earlier that this is my 203rd post on my Blogger blog...  Many more on my FASO blog but it doesn't have a count so who knows.....

Wow... Hope I'm not boring you all to death... but I LIKE blogging AND painting..... and I love hearing any comments you care to share.
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Reflecting On The Dam

Today I decided to revisit the Sepulveda Dam study I had done en plein air back in the spring. I really liked my start, but felt that the water was a jumble and the shadows were weak.

I kept the yellow orange hue near the horizon that I originally had used for the entire sky. It seemed a fitting color to represent the San Fernando Valley's ever present smog, but there was a blue sky above and a lot of the sky color was reflected in the water.

I darkened the shadows of the dam pillars, but I kept the sunlit highlights that hit the top of the bulwark of the dam since the sunlight was shining from behind the dam. Then I cleaned up the shapes and colors in the water and reinforced the reflections caste by the pillars. I also added some more vibrant color and ripples to the foreground water.

I like the shapes created by the two forms of the dam and odd angles to one another.

I'm very happy with the results. This little 8"x6" study is now a painting!!
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California Art Club Paint Out In South Pasadena

Last Saturday I participated with about 70 other artists in an event co-sponsored by the California Art Club and the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Although I painted in South Pasadena last year as part of the event, I wasn't able to paint on the day everyone gathered together at the Rialto Theater, so this was a bit new to me. In an effort to entice artists to participate more fully in the CAC, any artist was welcome to paint whether they were CAC members or not.

CAC staff and Chamber reps were there to greet everyone and they provided smiles, water and donuts to help fuel the hungry artists. It was a fun event. The day was pleasantly mildly warm and there were plentiful shady trees near the the library where many of the artists were painting.

During my many breaks, I was able to wander around and chat with artist friends I know and watch as wonderful artists painted. WOW... there was some fantastic art to be seen. What a treat!

I was there for about four and a half hours and painted two small paintings. I grew warmer as the afternoon wore on so I decided not to stay for the 4:00 hosted "reception".

This one, called "Dappled Light", is 10" x 8" on a canvas panel and I felt it was the better of the two I did. The other good news about this one is that it extends my "series" on trees. That's actually the theme of the Chamber's event this year -- "City Of Trees", so I'm doubly happy. I'll post the second one (not of trees) later after I've looked at it and revisited it a bit.
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Looking Up (Trees #5)

"Looking Up"
10" x 8"
Oil on RayMar Canvas

They're called gum trees in their native Australia. According to Wikipedia there are more than 700 species of Eucalyptus, mostly native to Australia. Although, we Californians tend to think of them as "our" trees, there are only 15 species that occur outside Australia. My husband's cousin, Carla, who has lived in Australia since she was 9, recently visited and commented on our "gum trees". She told tales of the vast wildfires that occur in her country because the trees are everywhere and they burn like incendiary bombs due to the large amount of oil they have in their wood. The oil can be used for cleaning and functions as a natural insecticide, and it is sometimes used to drain swamps and thereby reduce the risk of malaria.

Burbank Blvd. has a beautiful stretch of road that runs through the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin. It is lined with all sorts of trees and along one stretch is a mile or so of beautiful tall eucalyptus. I had a hard time trying to find a place to park, but finally found a safe place and hiked back to the stretch of eucalyptus I wanted to paint. There were so many.

Trying to think about what would make an interesting painting and composition. There were rows of trees, and individual trees. There is a path and a road that are shaded by the trees. I finally decided to "look up". I loved the way the sunlight was filtering through the branches and leaves and I absolutely adore the gorgeous bark as it peels off and creates different patterns on the branches and trunks of the trees.

I was pretty happy with this little plein air painting. AND I enjoyed the morning....

Sometimes I begin to wonder why I'm doing this... I was musing about this this morning in the car when Miley Cyrus' song "The Climb" came on. I guess that's why. If you haven't listened to the words of that song... you should.

And oh.... if you're wondering why I included the picture of the giraffe on the left..... just because..... it made me smile.
...... What???? Don't you see it????.... Keep looking.
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Morning Trees Along The Trail (Trees #4)

I'm continuing my efforts to "paint trees" that I began before going to Laguna. On this outing, (last Thursday before I left) I drove to an area not far from my home just east of Lake Balboa between the groomed park and lake area and the wilderness preserve behind the Sepulveda Dam. There is a biking / jogging path along a large field of dried grasses which is surrounded by all sorts of trees. This path skirts Hayvenhurst Blvd. so I found easy parking.

I tried to capture the intense dark of these trees --both of them huge thickly leaved Eucalyptus -- as the morning light peaked through the branches. This contrasted with the hazy far away line of trees obscured by the moisture in the air. The lower, more vibrant trees on the left caste their shadows across the bike trail.

Once I set my sights on Eucalyptus trees, I realized that while similar, there are vast differences between species of these native Australian trees. This particular type seems to be a heavier and fuller species with a darker and coarser bark than some.

I will continue to hunt Eucalyptus trees for a while as there are absolutely stunning trees to be painting in this group.

Despite the slightly foggy day, I was happy to sit in the shade but also used my painter's umbrella to help shade my palette as I painted.
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Last Day In Laguna -- Another Good Day

"Afternoon Delight"
9"x12" - Oil on RayMar linen

Sunday was our last day in Greg LaRock's workshop. We were back in Laguna Beach -- this time in Heisler Park at the north end. The day started off pretty foggy but ended up as another gorgeous Southern California day at the beach.

Saturday had been planned to be only the students painting all day with Greg's timely suggestions and guidelines, but he was convinced to finish with a quickie which I promised I'd post. Here it is:

On Sunday, Greg did a demo in the morning - reviewing all of the tips and information he had talked about on the previous two days and illustrating this as he did his demo. I enjoyed watching as he transformed a blank canvas into a lovely scene in about two hours... all the while talking and explaining (and trying to dodge the torrents of water as workers hosed down the bathrooms above us on the hill) the various points he was trying to make.

By about 11:00 he had finished his demo and he sent us off to find spots, eat lunch and relax.

I found a spot looking in the same direction but higher up on the hill and behind some tall purple flowers and a palm for some shade and a cool breeze.

As Greg dropped by to make suggestions and comments, I asked him how he managed to get the "crisp" look to his painting. He said that he doesn't mix the paints on the canvas but lays in the mixtures cleanly and then adds any pure color to attract the eye. Perhaps some day I'll get it.

However after struggling with what to do with the foreground (put in the purple flowers or leave them out and paint the part of the cliff I really couldn't see) I worked it out and in the end was pretty happy with my painting.

Greg ended the day with another critique session which I again found really useful. I think critiques and suggestions as you are painting or immediately after finishing up are really useful. Your mind says you're not "done" and you are ready to hear and accept these important and useful lessons which directly relate to what YOU'VE just done.

All in all... another good experience!!
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LaRock Workshop - Balboa Island - and "KISS"

We met on Balboa Island near Newport Beach, CA for day two of Greg LaRock's plein air workshop. Greg had told us that this was OUR day to paint and that he expected us to complete four.... ( YES.....FOUR!) paintings during the day.

Greg's a pretty smart guy and a good teacher. He had been talking about blocking in large shapes of a general color for each of the various big shapes in your composition in order to cover the canvas and eliminate the urge to noodle or pick at a painting. He said the only thing that should catch the eye was the area that attracted you as an artist in the first place. Your shapes should be planned. The artist has the obligation to create and paint what we know will make a good composition and lead the eye where we want it to focus......... even if the scene is different. He pointed out the "sweet spots" we all know about - approximately the four corners of the center rectangle when your canvas is divided by four lines horizontally and vertically.

Shapes should be varied from large to small.. and the artist should avoid making shapes that repeat or which are two uniformly spaced. He reminded us to save dramatic value changes or contrasts for the center of interest. This "focal point" is also where most of your hard edges should be placed.

By challenging us to paint four paintings (even if they were small) he knew we would have to keep them as simple as possible..... What I call the KISS principle.... Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Well I'm sorry to say that I failed Greg's challenge. I only completed three of the 6"x8" paintings I started. ("Waiting", "Yellow House" and "Fruit Stand".) I finished the fourth, which I had sketched out and made color notes about on site, when I returned home. ("Sidewalk Shadows" on the right side of this post.)

Despite not meeting the number quota, I was really pleased with myself. I tried to keep to the idea of large shapes of general color without noodling. I think I designed the paintings well enough so that the eyes are led to the focal point or center of interest in each case. I also challenged myself to paint boats and architecture which have always been difficult for me from a rendering point of view and I think I pulled them off fairly well. (Greg did a little mini drawing lesson on how boat shapes are simply rectangular boxes with a triangle attached.) AND... quite frankly... three's more paintings than I've ever done in a single day, anyway!!

Despite the fact that WE STUDENTS were supposed to paint all day, Greg was convinced... (we WERE pretty tired by then) at the end to do a demo which he pulled off in about one-half hour. He even put people in it!! (I'll post a photo of it in the next post.)

Each day of the workshop ended with a critique session and I have to say that, while kind, Greg did an excellent job of critiquing each artists' work. He talked about specific good points and made clear and doable suggestions for improvements. Another good lesson for me was to hear him say that he always waits at least a day after finishing a plein air piece to evaluate and make improvements / corrections on it. It was good to hear that every artist becomes so "in" to what they are working on, that it is necessary to walk away and see it with fresh eyes - the next day or later to really evaluate the work properly. I'll talk more about critiques in my next post.

Thanks for visiting!
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Greg LaRock Workshop - Day 1

When I was a Principal, I would take an art workshop about once a year and I'd try to take a class that met weekly in the evening. I really had never done any drawing or painting until I began to contemplate retirement and decided that I'd better have something to do... to challenge me and to help me to enjoy life beyond the "up at 5:00 off to work... work till you drop routine".

"Agave By The Sea"
8"x10" Oil on RayMar Canvas

Little did I know how engaging and fulfilling the art world has become in my life.

Now that I've retired, I find myself taking more workshops. I've enjoyed them all - the traveling, the learning and the meeting wonderful people. Initially I was absolutely and totally over my head. Luckily I didn't really know how much I didn't know. The artist-teachers were kind and patient. I still have so much to learn but now I can see that each time I hear the same thing in a different way from a different artist ..or the same artist.. I begin to understand it better.

I wondered, this time, however, whether I should take yet another workshop (I've taken 5 workshops since I retired two years ago). I'm glad I did. I had a great time, I enjoyed painting in a beautiful spot and I began to understand and apply a bit more as I painted. I had chosen to sign up for Greg's workshop because I like his work. Luckily I found during the workshop that he is a nice person with a well-thought out set of ideas that he shares easily with his students.

Greg talked about all of the usual important points in painting: focal point, composition, color mixing, values, edges and shapes. What I found most useful at this point in my journey was his emphasis on planning and designing the painting. What is it that you are trying to convey? (WHY are you painting this scene?) Does the drawing support what you are trying to convey (He came by often and made suggestions for corrections on drawing... reaffirming my need to work on drawing.) Do the colors create depth or atmospheric perspective? And probably most important... although it's by far not the first time I've heard it... Am I simplifying my shapes so that any details are at the focal point and all other elements of the composition lead the viewer's eye to the "main idea" of the painting?

Look how crisp and lovely his painting turned out. Where does the composition of the painting lead your eye?

On day one we met at a beautiful park in South Laguna. The day started out pretty overcast but was soon quite sunny and warm (emphasizing the need to block in all elements quickly and simply and not chase shadows and light.) Greg did a demonstration where he talked and showed us what he meant as he explained all of the principles needed in a successful painting.

In the afternoon we all chose our spots and tried to put into practice all he had discussed. Greg came by to each of us several times, making suggestions ... finding the good elements and pointing out what needed work. One of the endearing things Greg said several times to all of us, is that we need to take our failures and put them behind us. With each painting are some failures and some successes. We need to carry the successes forward and build on them.

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Secret Garden -- Trees #3

Last Thursday, before I left on my weekend in Laguna, painting in Greg LaRock's workshop, I scoured the neighborhood for interesting trees. Believe me, I found many, many beautiful trees. I was wondering as I searched, how many people really stop to look or realize how gorgeous some of these trees are... hopefully they do.

Anyhow for a variety of reasons, I ended up back at home. I remembered a garden area near the guard gates of my community. Mind you, I've lived here 15 years and I've never stepped into this area. Well, I tried the gate and it was open. ...(As it turned out, I lucked out... It's usually locked and you need "permission" to enter... but on Thursday the gardeners are working in the community and the gate was unlocked.) There I found a lovely "secret garden". It's full of old oaks and even more sycamores. Below you can see a view from the far side of the garden looking toward the gate. You might be able to see my painting set-up on the left side near the middle of the garden. Anyhow I sat in the shade and tried to capture the soft light as it stretched across the fallen oak leaves to the bottom of the gully area and the strong branches of the oaks on the hill.

I was happy with my painting. (However, after my workshop, I now think I'll go back and paint again - the next time with more compositional info in my "toolkit" to use.) The next few posts will describe a bit of the great time I had in Greg's workshop.

It was a great anniversary gift from my husband. He and Tyler came down on Saturday and my daughter and her husband came up so we could all celebrate together. Laguna and the beautiful sce
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