Saturday, June 30, 2007

Check lists

Click any image to see an enlarged view.

Funny how the list that I keep on my easel to reimind me what I need to be reminded of keeps growing.

Complementary colors
enhanced colors
texuture (physical and visual)
Compostion focus
interesting crops
Paint with your eyes
Think what things might become
Let the brush talk
Be in love with change
Find the elegance
See the big picture
Make it a pattern
Identify the extraordinary
Don't get gauche
Keep it fresh at all costs
Take your time

Compositional integrity. A composition that knows its edges, balances internally and "works" in the "big picture." The superior creative eye often simplifies and is not distracted by minor elements or extraneous detail.

Sound craftsmanship. No sloppy craftsmanship detected. Artist appears to be grounded in accepted means of application, order, and seems to have knowledge of media chemistry. Work looks like it is not liable to fall apart shortly.

Colour sensitivity. Appears to have understanding of colour choices—complementary, analogous, etc. Often shows colour paucity and attention to sophisticated grays. I hate to use the word "taste," but I will.

Creative interest. Subject is creatively different so that it attracts, leads and holds my attention to the artistic and creative elements within the work. I often become aware of a greater creative mind at work.

Design control. Artist appears to have an understanding of how the eye is managed and led by the design, flow and activation of a work—effectively 'seducing' me. I often have the feeling of a masterful eye managing mine.

Gestural momentum. Brushwork or line-work is often expressive and has bravura, bravado, courage and élan. It often shows variety of stroke and is generous in the "hand made" conveyance of visual energy.

Artistic flair. Artist does something beyond blind representation and/or just moving the materials around in some form of lazy play. Work has style and panache and captivates in its artistry. "Wow, that's artistic!"

Expressive intensity. All stops are pulled to enhance the central idea or general motif. It can be a "look," a mannerism or an illusion, but the intensity convinces me of the presence of a non-jaded, passionate, particular author.

Professional touch. Artist avoids amateur methodology and gives a direct, confident, seasoned look to the work. Some people seem to know what they're doing, others do not. Professionals often, but not always, tend to leave their strokes alone.

Surface quality. Up close and personal the surface is intriguing and a joy to cruise. This may be because of the texture, handling of pigment, or the complexity of surface abstraction, gradation, or other quality—anything that makes the surface fascinating.

Intellectual depth. Artist gives me something to think about. There is an enduring resource here—not just a pretty picture but a thoughtful metaphor or other device that has staying power without retreating to sentiment or kitsch.

Visual distinction. The art has a look of uniqueness, either with style, subject matter or handling. It looks different from what I've seen before, or if similar, arrests the eye with a unique feeling or look that denotes "character."

Technical challenge. Artist has chosen something that requires above average skills or technical ability. Not just something that anybody could do. I love to see artists challenge themselves, take the technical risk, and win.

Artistic audacity. Artist is "in your face" with some element that dazzles—skill, idea, technique, or some other in spades of the above mentioned points that makes me sit up and take notice.

Some of these were given to me by artist friends, others are just things from workshops, workbooks or personal observation.

Bottom line, I know my list will keep growing because I'll keep learning and that's exactly what painting is all about.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Working Small

Click any image to see an enlarged version

Lesson Plan to try

Working small

Take a 6x8 panel or paper and divide it up into four rectangles. Create four thumbnail sketches to use as reference for your small works painting.

Limit your palette. Premix colors for each major color/value in the painting (no more than around 8 colors or so or if you want to limit further, try just three plus black and white. Using a mountain landscape as an example, you would need to premix the sky color, the light and shadow for the upright trees, the light and shadow for the ground plane, and the light and shadow for the slanting plane (mountains).

Limit your time spent on each painting to no longer than 20 or 30 minutes. Don’t keep working on a painting that is not working… just move on to the next one or try the same painting with a fresh panel, different light, different angle, perspective, etc.

Working small has great benefits with economy of time, material, and learning. Once you have a successful small painting, you can expand the ideas to a larger works with ease since you’ve already worked out the majority of the problems and tried the same set up in different lights, etc. Use every painting you do as an opportunity to design and problem solve. Work from nature or life as often as you can. Work to capture the essential information. Practice objectivity to critique your own work and make your own check- list of things that you want to pay special attention to.

There are so many things to paint and so little time to get them all done.

Hands, shoes, hair adjustments

Click any image to see an enlarged view.


Click any image to see an enlarged view.

Today I've been working on trying to get the hands in position, resolving some issues with her hair, and getting the shoes in ready for shadows. Small changes in some places and big changes in others. I still can't quite get the color of her skin right. Looking at the image I see I will need to go back and adjust the shape of her chin where I cut in taking the hair off her shoulder and putting it to the back. It's still fun. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Background and foreground adjustments

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I'm fiddling and that's my usual routine when I'm just not happy with something. I worked on the background and adjusted the size of the bush in the front. I'm happy with the background and think everything will come together when I lay some of Carley Anns hair back in at the top of her head. If it still doesn't look right, I can lower the yellow grass line.

I'm also fiddling with her hair on the left side of the painting.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hair Sample

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Just for reference, here is a sample of her hair. In the photograph her hair is wet.

Bear and Hair

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Still trying to find the right blonde for her hair.

Painting advice from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Phyllis....try using a combination of burnt and raw sienna, yellow ochre, and mars black on Carley's hair....hold on the hands until you've finished Carley's hair and you are satisfied with her face...believe it or not, you have painted a very challenging portrait in record time! Paint on Phyllis!!

Mars black was only to be used to "darken" the burn't and raw sienna....I see no problem using black as much as I see using white as potentially problematic...white used with certain colors can "bleach" that color out---too much white can make a painting look "washed out"---the colors are not as brilliant, or lively as they could be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hair and Hands

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Still trying to find the right formula to paint her hair. I see I need to study a bit more. :)


More adjustments... and I'm happy with the background and the size of the boxwood.


Back trying to resolve the problem about the brick perspective and finally deciding that what I need to do is downplay the bricks so as to keep the focus on Carley Ann. I darkened the bricks somewhat and will probably do back over them again with another layer of dark glaze to further push them out of focus. I also keep tinkering with the background around her head as I'm not happy with what I keep doing. Again... working these problems out by doing a thumnail sketch and sticking to it would have solved this problem right off.

Click the image to see a larger photo.

Friday, June 15, 2007


I also worked a bit more on her teeth hoping I could get them to look better.

Background, Ribbon, Bricks

Just making adjustments and refining... actually changing my mind and trying out new things which I know I shouldn't do, but can't seem to help myself. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Background adjustment

Background and mouth

Two things I haven't been happy with and am still not quite happy is with the background and Carley Ann's mouth/teeth. Here are the latest changes. I'll probably work a bit on the mouth area tomorrow with rested eyes and then move on to hands, legs, feet and shoes. Oh yes... and hair. :) When Carley Ann's mother and daddy saw the portrait last week they wanted her to have teeth, so I made an attempt to put them in, but now that I look at it, she looks better with just a hint of teeth showing.

Painting tip from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Very nice Phyllis!! The way that you introduced the plants is well done--nice, but not an "attention eater". Now Phyllis, here's your next challenge...take a good look at Carly's mouth--notice in the photo that her teeth are barely "de-emphasize" her teeth, take some burnt sienna and a touch of red and go inside her mouth lessening the visability of her teeth--darken her top lip and keep her bottom lip highlighted....her teeth are "aging her" just a tad---so work on her mouth area...Phyllis, you are just about at the finish line with this one...WELLLLL DONE!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Adding pink flowers

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Adding green plants

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Painting Advice from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Phyllis, the flowers behind Carly is not a concern for can add a bit of detail, and that's all that they will need. I'd be careful about the flowers that you've put up front...that will mean more detail....the focus is on've painted her well enough where she can "stand on her own".....adding flowers is a nice touch, but be sure that you keep Carly as the star of your portrait!

Today's updates

We had a storm last night and the lawn service is doing some clean up. My trip away for a few days will need to take a back seat while I attend to some storm damage around the house. This will give me some time to work on Carley Ann's portrait in between directing the lawn service people. So, I'm painting today. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Busy week ahead

For the next two weeks I'll be busy with all kinds of projects so I'll have plenty of time to think about what I need to do next. Hope I get to paint a little on this one and keep the momentum going. Tomorrow and Tuesday I have a high school student coming to help me clean my garage out and some other projects that have been needing attention. Weather permitting, I hope to be able to get outside and paint in the early morning or late afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and visit some artist friends including Maureen in Americus and Shirley in Smithville! Saturday I have a meeting with the gallery folks and that's a full week of stuff.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I painted a bit early this morning and posted where I'm at now, but then Anna Claire came to stay with me while Brent, Terri and Carley Ann went to the Atlanta Aquarium for the day. I brought Carley Ann's painting into the house so that I could just look at it and decide what to do. Funny thing is that I can see the errors so much clearer just looking at the photo thumbnails. I wonder why that is. Anyway, I see that my bricks are not all going in the same direction SW to NE correcting that will help too I hope.

If I get to paint tomorrow I might lay in some of the flowers in the pot. I don't want them to have a lot of detail ... I don't think.... I need advice on this. The flowers are in the focal area, and would add to catching the eye of the viewer... but don't know how detail I can really get with painting them since I'm not really a detail painter. What would you do? Dawn Whitelaw gave me some good advice in the beginning, so I'll refer back to that, but if you have suggestions, please let me hear from you.

Covering up bricks and making adjustments


Working on brick perspective

I know I have something wrong, but just can't seem to get it right, so I'll keep working.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Anybody have any tips for painting hair?

Painting today

I don't have an image to show you of what I painted today because it is so very little. One thing I wanted to tell you though is how much I am enjoying my new studio space. The north light is great because it is constant and I can open up all three sets of french doors and get all the fresh air I want plus let the light flood in. One set of door is on the east side, another on the north side and the last on the west side. This makes for great air circulation without the air conditioning. When it gets hot, I can turn on the air, but I'd rather just open the doors. :)

This all confirms my gut feeling that the garden house should be used for a studio rather than just a place to sit and enjoy the garden... and store a few gardening tools. :) This way I get to combine two of my passions... painting and gardening. :) I'm finding I'm enjoying both of them more and more each day.

What's so great about having a studio you might say, I thought you said you were a plein air painter. Well, yes, I love plein air, but having a studio to go to and keep all your supplies handy, keep you painting going for days on end and being able to clean up right on the spot, leaving your brushes laying on the table ready for the next session really appeals to me. I'm finding that I may become more and more attached to working in the studio and just keeping a small set for jumping in the car and heading off for a plein air adventure. :)

Tomorrow looks like it's going to be another great studio day!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Carley Ann, minus the other girls

Well, I think I got a little too carried away with trying to put Anna Claire and Cocoa-puff in the painting, so I took them out and now Carley has her very own painting. I'll have to do one for Anna Claire when she gets around 2 1/2 like Carleys.

I feel better about this painting as it looks tonight. It's cleaner and has focus. :) I know the bricks are not placed right and I'll be working on that.

My three girls

I worked on the teeth some more. I still think they look a bit bright. Maybe a glaze would knock them down a bit, but I'll try that later. After looking at her face in the light of the day, I'm really unhappy with that yellow around her eye socket... I'm afraid to go back in, but think I need too. I can tell I'm really going to have to study to do flesh tones. And... that first mistake of using that pastel pencil to sketch in my drawing was a horror to tame as much as I have. I've also added in the way I want the background to be. I don't want much back there and the colors might be too strong, but I'll wait and see as it progresses. I can always go lighter and less intense to make it go back.I have the composition as I want it now. Anna Clair's mom came to look at the painting progress after VBS today and we talked about scale deciding that Anna Claire looked too big for the size I had Carley Ann so I've made her smaller. I hope this will work, but if it doesn't I will have learned another big lesson. I added Cocoa-puff in to complete my three girls and took out the Ivy leaves so there would be a easy way into the painting and keep if from being too busy. Hopefully the bricks will have enough texture, color and structure that nothing else will be needed. I don't know yet if I will try to paint them as realistically as possible or if I'll do them more painterly.... probably more painterly as I really don't want folks to linger on the bricks. That's about all I've done for today. I'm tired and ready to rest for the evening. So much fun... so little time.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Adding Anna Claire

I've got the block in done for Anna Claire. Here's the problem I think I'm going to run into... porportion... how much smaller is Anna Claire than her sister. I'm going for it anyway.I took away one column and will fuzz out the background when I figure out what to do. I also added some ivy on the bricks and the corner of a bush. I may put Cocoa-puff in too... just because they love her so and she's another one of my girls.

Paintin advice from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Phyllis, you can work it out on paper....the size of the paper doesn't matter, but getting the scale right does. Try working it out on an 18 x 24 sheet of drawing paper....get the scale of Carly on the paper as close to the scale of Carly on your canvas....this will make it easier to "transfer" the correct scale to your canvas. One other thing I should mention to you Phyllis, and this is an old trick to mine....after you've gotten your drawing the way that you like on your paper...turn it over, and take soft graphite or pastel and cover the back of your paper...making sure that the covering completely covers the drawing on the other side. Once that is done, you can turn the drawing back over...being careful, and making sure that the surface that you're going to lay it on is NOTtoo wet---if it is, wipe away any excess paint, making sure that the surface is as dry as possible. Next, you "re-draw" your image--pressing against the canvas, and when you've finished, the image should be "transferred" to your canvas---it might be light---in that case, you can draw a bit harder to make sure that it did transferred. It's a little work, but it can truly help you with your scale. For future paintings....your decisions should be definitive...honestly, I would not add any other images in the process, once I've begun to paint--my concern would be that your concern with getting the scale right on another image would frustrate you enough to take away from the original commitment to paint only Carly....I love your "boldness", but I must say that you might focus only on going through with the process of painting Carly, and once you've successfuly done that, (and I'm sure that you'll be successful), then you can take on the "fresh" process of painting them both in a brand new painting!

Final Face for Carley Ann

I decided that I would add Anna Claire into the painting. I don't know if I can get the scale right or not, but I'm going to try.

Here's Carley Ann's final face. I'm not finished with hair, but that can wait. I want to get Anna Claire's face perfect now. Her mother and dad came to look at it and they wanted her teeth, so I dropped a few in. I would have liked to have left them out, but in real life the painting of them looks like real teeth, so I'm okay with them.Edit.. again the image looks grainey with lines across it. It's probably because I'm shooting inside with lights instead of natural light from the sun. The painting looks so much better than this photograph.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I took the day off to consider what to do next. :)

I think I'll be working on the hair getting it to be blonde like her real hair is and checking to see if the hair line is correct. Also, I'll be adjusting the eyes around the fold line and the under lid of the eye socket.

This next week I'll be busy with VBS so I don't know how much time I'll have to devote to this painting. I do want to think about adding Anna Claire to this painting since I'm happy with it so far and my children seem to be too.

If you have any suggestions, please post them. I would be so grateful.

Painting tip from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Phyllis, I use these colors, titanium white, cad red, yellow ochre, and lemon yellow. The titanium white and the cad red are your base colors, with yellow ochre and lemon yellow for making the flesh cooler or warmer. You can mix green on for darker tones and shadows--(true green). You can acually purchase "flesh" color at most arts and crafts stores--but you still will have to navigate through your tones. (ligts and darks).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Canvas Covered with Paint

Today I've been working on getting paint all over the canvas and making some adjustments just to keep my head straight. I think I've figured out what to do with all that blank space to the right of Carley Ann... if she turns out to my satisfaction, I'll see if I can slide Anna Claire in beside her. :) For now I'll just leave it blank.

Painting advice from my friend Booker Thomas Poole:

Nice Phyllis! Very good start! Here's my suggestion: (this is how I paint my portraits--you don't have to do this, but from what I can see, you are painting your portrait like I paint mine.) When painting portraits, I try to consider the entire composition, and I try to avoid focusing too much on one area--this allows me to build up my entire composition all at once--it also allows me to make decisions on what background colors will work best with my subject-(there are times when the background in the photo may not necessarily compliment my portrait subject)--I make sure that my portrait subject is the main focal point--if the background is too intense or the colors don't compliment the colors on my subject---it would be difficult for the viewer to focus on the subject itself. As for using charcoal and worrying about the strong lines--try to tone down by erasing as much as you can, but in the future, you can spray drawing with fixative spray. You are doing great Phyllis!!! I'm actually painting Carly as well, and I will post the steps I took soon...coooool Phyllis!