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Paintings not about water

I promised to show the 5 paintings I’ve been working on for most of the summer at The Art Students League. They’ve taken a long time because they each have many layers of acrylic wash and 4 of the 5 used masking fluid. All of them were based on my memories and some photos I took of the water churning next to our boat on a New Zealand lake the beginning of the year. But although water is the inspiration, the paintings are not about water.  They’re about space and depth and mystery.  At the end I’ll include one of the photos.

So in no particular order, here are the 5 paintings.

First is Passage, the only one that didn’t use masking fluid.  Many many washes of ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, teal and titanium white.  Only a very little bit of this image comes from the photo, although that’s how it started.


          Passage        16×12        $850        2017

Second is Jacob’s Ladder, which started as a very pale blue wash with masking fluid on top. I made the “mistake” of standing the paper up before the masking fluid was dry, so it ran down the paper in several places. Once I got over my horror, I ended up liking the “ladder” effect, and then building on it. This reminds me of the hymn I sang as a child, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I certainly don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the feeling of awe and the mystery of climbing to heaven.

Jacobs Ladder

          Jacob’s Ladder        16×12        $850       2017

Third is Celebration. As with the paintings, Passage and Jacob’s Ladder, this started with the color patterns in the churning water next to our boat in New Zealand. And the colors and painting process used are the same as in Passage.

But what a difference. This painting is playful, joyous, dancing. It’s a quiet celebration of life in all its complexity and wonder. Somehow this painting insists on being happy.


          Celebration        15×11        $750        2017

Fourth is Beyond Beyond. Of the five paintings based on the churning water next to the boat in New Zealand, this is the one that looks the most like water (though not at all like the water seen from the deck of the boat).

The painting process was the same as with Passage and Celebration; even the red and blue colors are the same. But in this painting I feel like I am swimming underwater. Everything is vague and fluid, gently moving. You think you see where you are going, but you could swim forever and never get there.

Beyond Beyond

          Beyond Beyond        16×12        $850        2017

And finally, Almost There.  I’m aboard the Enterprise, heading to an unknown nebula.

Almost There

          Almost There        24×18        $1400        2017

And, here is the photo …

NZ Water

What can I say?  I can’t really explain how one photo and my memories yielded five such different paintings. Although superficially similar (color, pale washes, masking fluid), each painting has a completely different feel to it. As Frank O’Cain (my instructor at the League) says: “The painting tells you what it needs.”



Experiment gone wrong

Okay, so this isn’t about the work I do at the League (as promised in my last post). It’s about the different work I do in my studio at home: specifically it’s about an experiment gone wrong.

It started out well enough. I decided to do another ocean meets the beach painting by dripping paint onto a small canvas and moving it around with a palette knife.

Acrylic paint continues to move around as it dries

Beach II, initial

I liked the initial result, but left it to dry over the weekend, since the paint was very wet.  But who knew that acrylic paint would continue to move around as it dried?  Argh!  All the subtlety in the ocean disappeared leaving it an almost uniform dark blue. The white expanded a little and became a uniform pearlized blue-grey.  It was entirely too blah for my taste.

So I set about to try and recreate what I had liked in the initial painting, with varying degrees of success. And, for some reason, it really doesn’t scan well.

Beach II

Ah well, it was just an experiment, an experiment gone wrong.


I’m a little schizophrenic

It’s true.  I do very different work when I’m at home in my studio and when I’m down in class at the Art Students League.  I’m a little schizophrenic.

Nine months ago I got two 2.5 x 3.5 canvases at a Gala event for the Art Students League.  2.5 x 3.5?!? What can you do with anything that small?  Well … experiment, what else?  So instead of doing the kind of work I do at the League, I decided to try something new.  I made monoprints of my acrylic palette with both canvasses … and really hated both of them (well, one more than the other, but it doesn’t matter). Neither was any good.

So I dug out some fluid acrylics and dripped them on the canvas and started pushing them around with a palette knife.

Two tiny canvases

Very short story later, I liked them.  The one on the right looked like a waterfall; the one on the left, well, I didn’t know what it looked like. But it still appealed to me. So I decided to do more of this kind of work and upgraded to a slightly larger canvas: 5×7.

So, this is my idea of where the ocean meets the beach:

Beach    7×5

My next post will be about the very different kind of work I am doing at the Art Students League.




Beware: Artist Scam

If you’re an artist, by now you know there are lots of people who say they like your art but don’t want to pay for it.  That’s okay.  They just didn’t like it enough.  Or they really didn’t have the money, or the wall space, or … whatever. But there are people who say they like your art and seem willing to pay for it, but in the end they will have your art and your money.  You, the artist, will have nothing. Beware: artist scam.

There are a few key elements to watch for:

  • s/he likes your work but can’t say which particular piece
  • the work is intended for someone else (anniversary/birthday…)
  • wants to pay by check, but will send cashier’s check if pressed (can’t use PayPal or credit card for some strange reason)
  • will write a check for significantly more than the price of your artwork (ex.: Art=$1400; cashier’s check = $3980); the additional money is for you to pay the shipper (see next bullet)
  • buyer is moving to a different country and the shipper for handling that will also be picking up the artwork and your check for the difference (this ex.:  $2580 to pay the shipper)
  • buyer will have your artwork and your money and your checking account information; you will have nothing (the cashier’s check will ultimately bounce).

Please note: a bank check or cashier’s check can be fraudulent the same as a personal check.  If you deposit the check in your account, the bank may tell you within 2 days that you have the money. However, in two weeks they will let you know you don’t have the money after all.

I know whereof I speak.  Fortunately, my husband is a lawyer. He called the credit union that supposedly issued the check and they told him it was fraudulent.  Since this was the second time this has happened to me, I was aware of the scam possibility and just played along to see what would happen.   The first time, the “buyer” dropped it after I said I wouldn’t accept a personal check.

Update: I have received two missed calls from Switzerland. Maybe that is where my “buyer” is.  He did say he was traveling…


Some paintings are torture

Some paintings are torture to produce, others just seem to create themselves in record time. This is one of the latter.


Pandora      11×14        Acrylic on Yupo        $725

I had just finished a series of paintings based on my memories of New Zealand, each of which took a lot of time and effort. Looking back on them, I wasn’t happy.

Scheduled to meet with an artist friend of mine for our weekly critique session, I was concerned that I didn’t have anything to show her. With less than an hour to spare, I put out a piece of Yupo (plastic) paper, dug out my rubber wedge and a tube of Cad Red Medium and put the first strokes down. Tired of pretty pastel colors, I looked for something I thought wouldn’t go with the red … and pulled out a really old tube of Deep Magenta. With that down, I again looked for an unattractive color and picked Yellow Ochre. The only thing left was to add black and repeat some of the other colors to pull it all together.

Start to finish it took half an hour … and my friend loved it.

Of course, I then went to the League for my afternoon class and tried to do the magic again.  The result was awful.

Evolution of a Painting

My latest painting based on a recent trip to New Zealand went through several iterations before I decided it was finished.  This is my description of how Into the Light went from there to here: the evolution of a painting.

First, I painted the basic shapes of the trees and forest land in very pale colors.  I then added masking fluid where I wanted the light to shine through in the final painting.

Into the Light, Stage 1

Into the Light, Stage 1

Then I added more color to everything.  The tree trunks are starting to look purple (brown is boring).

Into the Light, Stage 2

Into the Light, Stage 2

Again and again I added more color, and then more masking. The next step is to peel off the masking fluid using a “Lift-off Tool (a fancy name for a rubber eraser) to see what is left to do.

Into the Light, Stage 3

Into the Light, Stage 3

The remains of the masking now become a sculpture (using the term creatively).

Masking Fluid "sculpture"

Masking Fluid “sculpture”

Finally, I intensify some colors, in some cases painting into the areas previously covered by the masking.  The process is very similar to what I used to do with watercolor.  In fact, I have thinned the acrylic to the point where it functions like watercolor (although it’s permanent once it dries).

Into the Light

Into the Light        12×16         Acrylic      $850

NOTE: This final image looks very much like the final painting.  The previous images are “browned” because I used my iPhone in the studio at the Art Students League.  In spite of this, I hope you can still get a good sense of how this painting evolved.


New Zealand forest reflected

As we drove around New Zealand, one of the things that amazed me was how much forest land there was, and how varied.  I saw it whiz by as I rode the bus, I saw it up close and personal as I walked through, and I saw the New Zealand forest reflected in the sometimes crystal clear lakes. Some were dense rainforests; others were “prehistoric” with huge ferns everywhere. There was one tree I’ve never seen anywhere else, but every time I asked what it was, I got a different answer.  There was a big bushy tree that bloomed big red flowers in the summer (December/January) that the locals called the Christmas tree.

Here’s another painting of the forest in motion, sunlight seen through the trees, reflected in my memory.

Reflections of NZ

          Reflections of NZ        12×9        Acrylic        $600