Sunday, November 29, 2009


Again, day one...this is our group of ten who took Jim Richards' workshop in north Ga/NC. Some of the group will travel with Jim next August to Point Reyes and Bodega Bay, California. We will see where the Russian River opens into the Pacific and see the "10 mile" stretch of beach and hills from the "point" at the national reserve at Point Reyes. I am excited!!! It is such a lovely place...


Today, we tackled a waterfall! This fairly unknown waterfall is located behind the lake at Sky Valley, Ga. and was probably about 65-75 feet high. It was so loud that it was impossible for Jim to demo. You could not hear your neighbor who was not more than three feet away! This time I got it. Having never painted moving water before, I studied what was beneath the water and noticed that the rocks were like slanted steps. I blocked those in with a dark color. Once this set up for about five minutes, I then came back with white or bluish white and pulled the color with a fairly large brush in the direction of the fall over each rock step - voila! It worked!!!


Day 2 - Another lovely day! This time viewing the incredible mirror of the mountians and trees surrounding Sapphire Lake in the still water near Cashiers where a number of participants were staying for the weekend. A bit on the chilly side in the shade, I had to catch the sun's rays several times to thaw...but, what a beautiful lake this was!

Jim is demonstrating "blocking in" with a size 18 brush on a canvas no larger than 11 x 14 and using his basic "gray" palette to create a lovely, harmonious work of art.

What was interesting was that as Jim continued with his demo, the mirror of the lake began to change with the spreading of a gorgeous blue color skiming the surface of the lake from a far penisula heading towards us. The wind had picked up ever so slightly catching the reflection of the blue sky. This same blue "color" happened on this green colored water surface that reflected its trees when two boys threw rocks into the still lake. The ripples revealed the reflection of the blue sky in the circles that initially emerged from where the rock entered the water and the green color was quickly restored as the circles moved further away from the rock's entry point.

Plein air can be extremely difficult, but it makes you "see". Some days you do well, some days...oh, well... my best day was Day 3!!!

Oh..and one more thing...I keep hearing that word, "VALUE". Jim mentioned it every single day, more than once, and I hear it at the school all of the time. Value, value, value...we need to all hear this...AND...composition. Remove things from your subject if it is NOT working. Do not be afraid to move a tree, make a path, add a stream...make the painting work compositionally. (*Read about some design rules below.)


It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote in this blog. I have been preparing for a school show at The Gallery at Paper Mill Village which will have its premiere opening reception this Friday, December 4th, from 6:00 - 8:30 pm...ya'll come!

Anyway, Jim...what can I say. He is one of the most generous and talented artists I know. Jim has provided three workshops at the school and wanted to go "outside" for the third. And, outside we went. This photo of Jim is during the first day at the family home of a friend of one of the workshop participants. The view you see is for "50 miles" - all the way to Brasstown Bald from Scaly, NC. We could not have had better weather. As you can see, Jim is in short sleeves in the middle of November. It poured the week before. We were very fortunate. Our group of 10 met this first day to a chilly morning which ended with our peeling off layers and getting sunburns. (Note the shed and dotted cows in the valley. This view was gorgeous - not to mention the finest collection of art in the home above us...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This is a picture of a gray scale which is a valuable tool for the artist to accurately judge the tone or value of the subject they are painting. It starts out with "1" as being the darkest (black) and ends with "1o" as the lightest (white). And, there are the ranges of light, dark and mid-tones in between.

Try to think of values in two distinct groups - areas of shadow and areas of light. The differences between light and dark help define shapes and show you what the light is doing. It takes practice to recognize correct value.

A helpful tool that Ellen White uses in her advanced class is to have her students take a black and white photo of their painting in progress and a black and white photo of what they are working from and then matching them to see if their values are, in fact, "correct".

Value allows the maximum contrast and can be used to control visibility and attention. Two major considerations are the amount of contrast (where the greatest dark against light occurs or vice versa) and the tonal range (the range from black to white). The highest contrasting area between light and dark enhances visibility and noticeabiltiy - hence the most efffective way of creating a "focal point". When this strong contrast is reduced, the visibility is reduced.

Definitions: Value? It is either light or dark. Hue? Each color has a name (I am not trying to confuse anyone here.)

But, please, avoid equal amounts of dark, mid-tones and light - boring. Variety is the name of the game.

Monday, November 9, 2009


School's out until next year, so I am going to begin writing notes about some of the principles that our students are being taught at the school throughout the year. The fact of the matter is that no matter how good the paint application or the color is, the painting will not be effective without a good design or composition which must be determined at the outset.

The rule of thirds states that the centers of interest lie somewhere along the lines of the grid. Where they intersect at the red dots are the "power points", a term used by photographers. Placing a focal point near one of these power points can give balance to a composition and allow the work to be more engaging to the eye while making sure to avoid the bull's eye area or what I call NO MAN'S LAND - that square in the dead center of the grid. To help you in mapping out your design, dot in along the edges of your canvas your tic tac toe grid and decide where your focus will be before starting out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



First, I would look for someone who is going to teach the fundamentals g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y. It is wrong to assume that a student knows the basics, but as Millie Gosch has said over and over again, "It may take a thousand times that you say something and the 1001th time, they are ready to receive it." It takes repetition, repetition, repetition and everyone needs to be reminded about what is important. Secondly, are you improving with continued instruction? If not, uh, oh... Thirdly, are you being treated as an individual - not as a group. Are there any "favorites" - this would not be a good sign. Fourth, is the class overcrowded? Too many people and you will not get the attention that you need, have paid for and deserve. Fifth, are you training with people you like. It helps to learn with people who help and encourage you. Sixth, does the teacher encourage competition? I cannot imagine a more uncomfortable situation. Seventh, do you feel "safe" in the environent? Be careful of intimidating students (and teachers). Teachers should control this aspect of a class. And, teachers who are overbearing can be intimidating to students. Teachers make mistakes, too, so find one who is humble. overly critical teacher can make you give up (I hope I have never done this to anyone!!!). Criticism without instruction on how to improve is of no use to the student or anyone for that matter. Students progress by winning, not by loosing. And, last, but not least, and I feel most importantly, "Are you having fun and learning something at the same time?" All of these questions I have posed to you with the help of the words of Eric Hines...


A word about color harmony...
I wish I had taken a picture of this work yesterday when the color of this boys' clothes really conflicted with the landscape color.
He had a bright lemon yellow shirt and bright blue pants. Sharmila and I discussed what might create a more harmonius work and it was decided to abandon the actual photograph and work with a color scheme that already existed in the landcape. What an amazing transformation this color change made...
MORAL OF THIS STORY: Don't be married to your photograph or scene! If it doesn't work, change it, eliminate it, move things around, but don't stick with it if it simply isn't working...the end.


The best paintings start out with a "correct" drawing and a great composition. Laura, who has never attempted painting a portrait before, has decided to challenge herself by doing all three of her children. Do-able, but she needs to know up front that this will take some time.
She sets out using a grid to establish the shape of the head of the first child and outlines the features of the face. Even after "thinking" that by using this technique that her drawing will be correct, she quickly learns that it is not when asked to review the "relationships" of the drawing - where does the corner of the eye align with edge of the nose and the corner of the mouth, where does the bottom of the ear align with the tip of the nose and the brow, what is the measurment of the distance from the top of the forehead to the bridge of the nose and how it relates to the distance from the bridge of the nose to the bottom of the chin.
Laura learned that although the grid is an excellent beginning tool, her drawing was not correct. She was given one more "general" rule of thumb that there are "three" eye spaces which did ring true for this child.
Overall, I find that many students are anxious to have a finished product without first spending the time on the fundamentals. The key word is to SLOW DOWN and allow yourself to really "see" the relationships.
I cannot wait to see where she is on her drawings at our next meeting.
Then, on to laying in her darks and introducing the complexity of skins tones...and there will be more discussion on compositional design elements of an art work on this blog...CRITICAL!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


On a more serious note...
Martha once again painting one of her wonderful large fruit works! They are stunning - come see them on December 4th.
Nancy next to the window painting her lovely beach scene. She just finished a wonderful golden retreiver painting and will be taking Robert Christie's Drawing Animals class next session.
Note: The torches in the rear on the shelf...these are for the encaustic class...there IS a fire extinguisher in the room.


Who says you can't have fun taking an art class? "Not I", says Treacy, playing the lady matador with her drawing paper. "Not I", says Cathy... both taking that much needed breather we were talking about earlier...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009



This was a great day for the students in today's class! What had been a past few difficult weeks for one student today ended in success!!! Her painting started with a wonderful drawing and then clean color application. The result was the beginning of a wonderful, sweet, fun work and should be a wonderful gift for a sister-in-law.

I have found that when someone begins to get into a "funk", it is best to put the brush down, take some time to relax and get refreshed and then start again. Writers get writer's block...artists definitely get artist's block.

I always ask students to take a break from their work during a class, walk around, regroup, and give their brains a break... it always helps one to be able to "see" a little bit better!

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Art School in Sandy Springs will be hosting a "Holiday Show" at The Gallery At Paper Mill Village, an exquisite 2200 sf space adjacent to the Paper Mill Grill and Bar with a reception on Friday, December 4th, from 6:00 - 8:30 pm. Come join us for great art and company!!!