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Finding my way through Composition

I don't think I've ever fully understood some things about composition. Like, how to guide the viewers eyes through a painting or how to reliably recognize an awkward design.

I've noted that I learn most by doing, so as part of my ongoing DIY art education, I've decided to devote a period of time daily to find my way through this confusing maze of information on composition.

I've found some wonderful resources to help me along the way.


Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts - introduced me to the basics of composition, along with the daily composition project.
The Simple Secret to Better Painting by Greg Albert - simplifies the overwhelming amount of rules within composition to one easy to understand concept.
Landscape Painting by Mitch Albala - Chapter 7 goes over composition as it applies to the landscape. Background, middle ground and foreground.

Online Learning:

VITAL Art Sessions with artist Kelli Folsom has helped me a great deal with still life composition, (and painting in general!) 


Viewfinder - helps me to isolate a view - especially with still life
Red Filter - helps me to see value without the confusion of color. I don't have this tool with the grid, but it's high on my wish list for plein air compositions


Daily Composition Practice - a composition sketch each day. I try to design my daily composition mindfully, writing notes on which rules of composition I'm utilizing in the design to help cement the learning.

I'm always on the lookout for good solid information on composition. If you have a recommendation, I'd love to hear it!
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Paint Saving Measures

Paint is expensive. Since I don't want to skimp on my canvases and  I'm rarely lucky enough to put out the right amount each painting session - I often have leftovers that dry quickly in my dry Arizona environment. I sometimes wonder if I scrape off and throw away more dried up paint than I use. I've learned a couple of valuable paint saving tricks that I wanted to share:

1. Best tool ever - the paint tube wringer! This little gadget helps me use all of the paint I buy. I love how it keeps my tubes neat too.

2. Clove Oil - just a drop or two on a cotton ball keeps paint from drying in my palette box

3. The Freezer - laying plastic wrap over my palette and putting it in the freezer puts my little piles of paint in suspended animation until I can get back to them. Great if I'm going to be away from my studio for days at a time. I transfer my paint to palette paper when doing this. I'm not convinced my glass palette and plastic palette box would do well in the freezer!

4. Limited Palette - I took a workshop that required me to buy dozens of different colors of oil paint. I'm glad I got the exposure to all those colors, but I've learned I can mix many of those colors with just a few basic hues. In the future, I'll buy a warm and cool version of each primary in large tubes, (which are more economical), and mix my own.

Have any tricks for paint saving? Do tell!
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February Daily Paintings

It's that time again for the 30 day painting challenge when hundreds of artists are painting every day! (You can see all their paintings HERE)
I'll be doing a small painting every day that I can manage it. I'll post them here for this month, newest one first:

Day 28: "Sully" 


Day 16: Tea with Lemon

Details, Price and Shipping Info HERE

Day 15: Fruit Dish

Details, Price and Shipping Info HERE

Day 12: Back yard Snail Vine

Details, Price and Shipping Info HERE

Day 11: "Cinder" bathed in sunshine

8 x 10" oil on panel. Sold.

Day 10: Rosemary in a Jar

Details, Price and Shipping Info HERE

Day 8: Bowl of Lemons 

Details, Price and Shipping Info HERE

Day 6: Pitcher and Grapes 

I brought this little red clay wine pitcher home with me from Greece. Perfect with red grapes!
Details, Pricing and shipping info HERE

Day 5: Fractured Daisies

Details, Pricing and shipping info HERE

Day 4: Gerbera Daisies in a Jar 

Details, Pricing and shipping info HERE

Day 3: Pepper Power? :-D 

Details, Pricing and Shipping Info HERE

Day 2: Ravishing Radishes

Details, Pricing and Shipping Info HERE

Day 1: Grapefruit in Blue Willow Bowl

Details, Pricing and Shipping Info HERE



30 Paintings on 30 Panels

When I can, I enjoy participating in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days event. Leslie Saeta, the creator of the Artists Helping Artists podcast, started this bi-yearly event. You can listen to her explain why you should participate in the recent podcast episode:  "Ten Benefits you will  Gain from Participating in the February 30 in 30 Challenge"

For me, I've found that painting consistently for a period gives my painting skills a noticeable boost. It's that practice makes perfect thing. The best way to learn to paint is to, well.....paint! So, the more I do it, the better I become at solving painting problems and the better my paintings look.

This year I'm prepared. I've stockpiled a small mountain of 6 x 6 inch panels,  just the right size for a daily challenge. When painting small, panels are great because there's no texture to compete with small areas of detail. I've used both Ampersand Gessobord and Richeson Premium Panels and both work quite well for me. They're convenient to use and a nice size to hang in a group. To finish my work, Ambience Gallery frames are really great little inexpensive frames that come in this hard-to-find size. I love that they're deep enough to stand on their own and that they're conveniently sold in sets of eight.
This month my theme is "in my viewfinder". In other words, I'll be painting from life rather than photographs for this challenge.

So for me, this is an opportunity, a whole month, 30 days of possibilities. Will I get to 30? Probably not, but it's certain that I'll paint a whole lot more than usual and I'll be better for it. I'm hopeful that at the end of this challenge, I'll have a nice group of 6 to 8 small paintings that I can hang together. I have some lonely blank walls needing company!



Pet Portraits

Once I ran out of Grand kids to paint, I began painting my Grand dogs. After just a few, I began getting requests for more from friends and colleagues. It didn't take long to figure out that I really enjoyed capturing pet personalities on canvas.
You can see an album of all my pet portraits to date on my Facebook Page.


Cigar Box Art

I do get on these crazy little kicks from time to time, looking for ways to combine my art with recycling projects. In the past, I've transformed old books into sketchbooks/ art journals, covered notebooks with collages of old paintings, and even made canvas pouches from discarded paintings.

I find painting cigar boxes satisfying in the same sort of way. Adding painting to the fine patina of a wooden cigar box really sets off the natural wood, the paper seal, the brass hinges and lock, to make a fine little storage container that's not only functional, but lovely to display.

Interested in creating your own? I blogged a little tutorial at Simply Notable. These are my first few, but if they multiply in relation to the happiness painting them is giving me, look out. An avalanche of cigar boxes is on the way!
Available in my etsy store

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