Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Collage of Some January Oil Paintings - 30 in 30 is over!

Some of my January 2017 Paintings - Doggie still WIP!

Leslie Saeta always concludes her 30 in 30 Challenge with a collage of all of her paintings. It is pretty impresive to go look at all the artists who actually did complete 30 paintings in 30 days. I have included some of my favourites from this month in my own little collage pictured above.

I still have a few more paintings to finish in order complete my own personal 21-Day Painting Challenge. I am not going to feel guilty about doing it in a lot more than 21 days though!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Daily Painting Habit - Day 19 of 21 - Sport: Work In Progress!

10 x 8 inches - Oil on Archival Panel - "SPORT"

So, nearing the end of this challenge, I am realizing that I am constitutionally not cut out for completing a painting, even a small one, in a day. I need time to ponder and figure out if I am 100% happy. That is how I feel about this one, which is finished, yet I am not sure I won't revisit some tiny details once it is dry.

This cute puppy, like all babies, was a bit of a challenge. It is very easy to age the young of any species. I am going to let this dry and hit it again soon, especially with regard to brightening up some highlights, warming up the background just a touch and some other small details, but the bones are there.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 18 of 21 - Sunflowers on Lake

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Sunflowers on Lake

More work on this little painting of sunflowers. I have been feeling kind of pressured to get a painting done every day, but my intention was really just to do some art every day. When I rush, I tend to make mistakes that end up taking me 3 times as long to correct. So, it is better to just relax and enjoy the process.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 17 of 21 - Transparent Block-In of Sunflowers

Transparent Block-In of Shapes

It seems I am not cut out for this "painting a day" gig. Today, I spent most of my painting time fixing a whole bunch of minor things that bugged me on the painting I did yesterday (which basically still looks exactly the same to anyone but me).

 As a result, I just barely got started on this one of some sunflowers. This is the first stage with basic drawing and transparent block-in. And, because I am ADD, I also started a watercolour that I have been procrastinating on for about a year.

The completed Sunflower painting will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 16 of 21 - Pink Peonies

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Pink Peonies

I prefer a brushy, painterly style, so I think this is finished. Peonies are so beautiful and lush.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 15 of 21 - Work in Progress - Pink Peonies

WIP - Transparent Underpainting

WIP - Starting to add more colour and correct shapes
So, today was pretty busy in my non-art life, so I just got started on this little painting of some pink peonies. I am always interested in seeing how a painting is made, so I hope you are too!

What attracted me to this subject was actually more the reflections in the glass jar, although peonies are my favourite flower!

Hopefully, tomorrow I will have time to finish this one.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 14 of 21 - Landscape

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas

I was really attracted to the bright colours in this landscape. I used a palette knife in the creation of this painting, which adds texture.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 13 of 21 - Paint Tubes with Brush

5 x 7 inches - Oil on Panel - Paint Tubes with Brush

Here is a little studio oil which was fun to create. Artists may recognize the Classico oil tubes, Gamblin Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil and Robert Simmons Signet brush.

This painting would look nice in a wide moulding. It is a piece I started awhile back, to which I just added some finishing touches.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 12 of 21 - Beets

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas

It is January once again, the start of a new year and many of us are assessing our priorities and goals to figure out what we want to accomplish in 2017. I have quite a list of things I want to get done.

When it comes to my art,  I am once again joining Leslie Saeta's painting challenge and committing to finishing the 21-day daily painting project I set for myself (but didn't complete) in September 2016. Most of my work consists of large paintings that take a long time to create, so this is a fun break and a chance to try some new subjects and techniques.

As per usual, I am getting a late start, but I have just enough time left in the challenge to complete the "ten paintings in ten days" I need to do to finish my personal goal, a 21-day Daily Painting Challenge.

Painting every day, especially completing a small work all at once, is a great way to experiment with new subject matter, colour palettes and techniques. A lot of accelerated growth and learning is to be expected.

Here is my first small, daily painting of 2017 which is on the theme of my other obsession, which is food and nutritional healing, some BEETS!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Painting Without Solvents - More Tips for Oil Painters!

I recently received an email from a reader, asking a question about solvent-free oil painting:

* I have re-published the article referred to below, along with some of the previous comments that provide further information.
Hi Laurel,
I came across your article on oil painting without solvents which I need to start doing as I have developed a real allergic reaction to OMS type thinners. You mentioned that you use walnut oil as a medium for cleaning your brushes. Have you tried Safflower oil? or will that cause problems with my oil paintings. The reason I ask is the Walnut oil, which I use to thin my oils has become very expensive. Anyway, if you have had experience with that I would really appreciate any feed back about that as I don't want to give up painting with oils.
Thank you, LP
Here is my reply:
Thanks so much for your letter, LP. Hang in there, you definitely do not have to retire your oils! 
I am sorry to hear that you have developed an allergy to odorless mineral spirits (OMS). I do use it sometimes, usually outdoors, but tend to avoid it in favour of straight paint (often initially applied with a palette knife) or sometimes a medium that with only a little OMS.
You might want to give some thought to your method of painting. For instance, alla-prima painting is conducive to working without solvents. Once you have some paint on the support, there is no need for thinners. I often use a palette knife to put on the first layer; then, as long as it remains wet (usually a few days if using the right pigments - avoiding earth shades like umbers and ochres, for instance, that dry quickly) you can easily blend and work the paint without any solvents until it starts to tack up. I use a small container of walnut oil, dipping in without touching the sides of the container to avoid a mess and wiping off the brush between colors. If you like to let the work dry between layers, oiling out, as discussed in my article below is another option. Particularly when painting in layers, a solid support will age better (less cracking due to movement) than stretched canvas. 
Walnut oil is an excellent substitute for OMS and is much more archival, creating a stronger paint film. For cleaning brushes, I have used safflower oil, so your instincts are correct. In fact, as long as you wash the brushes thoroughly with soap and water afterward, you can use any vegetable oil. Since safflower is also a drying oil (along with walnut and linseed), if it does end up in your paint film, it will not prevent the painting from drying properly, so it is a safer choice than generic vegetable oil, yet still more affordable than walnut oil.   
Interestingly, I recently came upon some information that slightly contradicts some of my previous practices. Apparently, to preserve your brushes, some painters recommend soaking new brushes in mineral oil (baby oil) before using, as this will deposit non-drying oil in the ferrule and prevent paint from permanently stiffening and ruining brushes. We should be using only the ends of our brushes for painting, perhaps halfway up the bristles, but I know I often lose control and end up with a brush soaked in paint right up into the ferrule. Because of my messy habits, I am now thinking about using this method to preserve my brushes. I could then use any oil to remove most of the paint and wash with soap and water. I guess the only risk here is some of the non-drying oil preventing your painting drying! I think the risk is low if you clean the brushes thoroughly after rinsing in safflower oil. 
Another idea to save yourself a lot of time washing brushes every time you paint (in addition to suggestions in the article below) is to suspend them in oil. There are brush washers that have a wire coil to hang them from - just fill the bottom with walnut oil (after wiping them off thoroughly to get rid of most of the paint) and suspend them with just the bristles in the oil. When you are ready to paint again, wipe them off and get to work. With this method, you would not be using as much walnut oil, so could save some dollars that way. I hope that helps! Any further questions, please post a comment and I will get back to you here. 
Happy painting, LP - let me know how it goes!
An additional comment I have, is to use a 3-bucket, environmentally friendly method of brush cleaning if you are worried about your plumbing (and care about the environment) - that way, only microscopic amounts of oil (and toxic pigment) will go down the sink - you have more worries from your cooking pots!

*stock photo

Here is the original article with some of the comments:


(As published in Curry's Artwise Newsletter, March 2007)

I spent many years painting with watercolors and acrylics because I was scared of solvents.I didn’t want to deal with something so toxic on a regular basis. This was a real shame, because I now paint almost exclusively with oils and I love the buttery texture, lack of color shift (the color, when dry, is exactly the same value as when you put it down, rather than darker as in the case of acrylics, or lighter when using watercolor) and ease of revising my work. Of course, you can always use water soluble oils, but as a professional portrait artist, I prefer traditional oils. It came as a revelation to learn that solvents were not necessary when painting with traditional oil paints, in fact, for archival reasons, it is actually preferable to not to use them at all in painting mediums. Another benefit from painting without the use of solvents is that there is no need for complicated ventilation systems and no worries about the fumes affecting the health of yourself and family members.

I use paint straight from the tube and do not usually use a painting medium, other than a very small amount of cold pressed linseed oil or walnut oil if the paint is too stiff.Sometimes, when adding a second or third layer of paint, I will “oil out” the surface by adding a microscopically thin layer of oil before beginning to paint again. After sprinkling the oil over the area with a palette knife and rubbing it in with a rag, it is a good idea to use a small makeup sponge to remove any excess oil. Using the “oiling out” technique accomplishes the same thing as retouch varnish, without the solvents, by bringing back the original appearance of the piece, refreshing any dry or sunken areas and facilitates matching colors. It also helps the paint flow on more smoothly due to the wet surface.

While I am painting, I try to use a lot of brushes, keeping at least one brush for each value so I don’t have to rinse clean the brush in solvent as I paint. I have a brush holder, which is fairly easy to make, that holds 3 rows of 11 brushes (yes, you read that correctly, 33 brushes) but I don’t always use that many, sometimes making do with just one row of 11 brushes, for 9 values plus black and white. The system, inspired by one of my past instructors, Marvin Mattelson (who teaches at The School of Visual Arts in New York City), involves using small, medium and large brushes in three rows. Being somewhat organizationally challenged, I usually get them mixed up, but it is fairly easy to just dip the brush in some walnut oil and wipe it off on a paper towel or rag if necessary. Although Marvin’s version of the brush holder is somewhat sophisticated, with several sizes of holes being drilled inside each other to fit various sizes of brush handles, a simpler version can easily be made by drilling holes large enough to fit your biggest brush handle in a foot long chunk of 2x4. Yes, you do have a lot of washing up at the end of the day, but because walnut oil is slow drying, it is possible to avoid the task for a day or two by dipping the brushes in oil and wrapping them in plastic. Before using them the next day, wipe the brushes clean, rinsing with walnut oil if necessary. Solvents are very drying to your brushes, so an added benefit to cleaning brushes with oil instead is that they will be kept in better condition. By the way, this method of delaying brush washing is best used when painting without lead based whites, which tend to dry quickly.

For final cleaning of the brushes, walnut oil can very successfully be substituted for mineral spirits, as the texture of this type of oil is thinner than other vegetable oils, which are usually too viscous to allow the pigment to fall to the bottom of your brush cleaner in a timely manner. M. Graham, a company that also makes very nice paints, supplies walnut oil specifically geared for artistic use, as opposed to putting it on your salad! Beware that using vegetable oils from the supermarket may compromise the integrity of your paintings, as most oils are non-drying and traces may remain in the brush after washing with soap and water.

To begin cleaning my brushes, I first dip them in the oil and then wipe them on a page from an old phone book (which is a great way to reuse and recycle, as it cuts down on the amount of paper towels used and ultimately trees as well) until most of the pigment comes out. Simply tear off the page when it becomes too full of paint. The next step is to rinse the brush in the oil in the same way you would use solvent. I have a fancy stainless brush cleaner, but I also use coffee tins with a tuna size tin, punched full of holes and turned upside down in the bottom (hammer holes in it using a big nail) on which I rub my brush to get out the last remnants of paint before washing with soap and water. When I feel that my bar of soap isn’t getting all the paint out (sometimes I neglect to clean the brushes promptly, making it more difficult to get them thoroughly clean) I use “The Master’s” soap instead of my usual bar, letting it stay in the bristles overnight if they are really gummed up, and that does the trick!

Finally, I am going to share with you a tip for cleaning brushes that was passed on to me by William Whitaker, a wonderful artist with decades of experience. This tip alone was worth the price of admission to his workshop at the Scottsdale Artist's School. After getting soap into the brush, grab the end of the bristles with your left hand and, while holding the brush handle with your right hand, wiggle the brush handle back and forth several times - doing this helps remove the stubborn paint that is close to the ferrule and will extend the life of your brushes.

Painting with the method I have outlined is better for your health and the environment. If you have always wanted to use traditional oils, but hesitated because of concerns about solvents, this is your chance to experience all the joy of painting with oils with none of the drawbacks!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Eco-Friendly Brush Washing for Oil Painters

Save the Environment Brush Washing Method

This is a re-post of an article, from my previous blog, "Thinking about Painting" containing valuable information on the best way to clean brushes without ruining our earth!

In a letter to (the late Canadian painter and writer) Robert Genn, Mark Gottsegen, a member of the subcommittee on artist's materials of ASTM International (originally the American Society for Testing and Materials) since 1978, wrote:

In the recent clickback regarding cleaning brushes, no one asked what to do with the left-overs from washing brushes. Down the drain? No, that's environmentally irresponsible - putting solvents and pigments into the waste stream is never a good idea. If you have a septic system, you will pollute it; if you have a municipal sewer, you will pollute it. If you are in a class or a school, then in the US doing this violates federal law; if you are an individual artist, doing this is just bad practice. 
Collect the veggie oil, waste water (or sludge), waste solvents, dirty rags and paper towels (dried) and take all the collected waste to your community's hazardous waste collection station, where it is consolidated, incinerated and burned to ash. Then it is cast into concrete billets and encapsulated. Only then can it be taken to a protected, certified landfill. The cleaning part is the easiest. Being environmentally responsible is more difficult.
Mark Gottsegen sets out an environmentally friendly way to deal with brush washing in his book, The Painter's Handbook. I will try to describe the system in my own words, with a few of my own tweaks, as follows:

1. Get 3 large plastic buckets with lids (about 5 gallon size, which can be obtained from stores like Home Depot, Lowes or Rona) and one that is even bigger that you will use without a lid to allow liquid to evaporate (I use a smallish, inexpensive garbage can lined with a plastic bag for easy cleanup). I have also recycled those gigantic protein powder containers to use for A, B and C and that has worked well in that when you swish the smaller opening keeps the splashing in the container instead of all over your clothing.

2. Label the first three buckets A, B and C. Container D is the larger plastic container which will hold at least 10 gallons. You will also need a container with vegetable oil. I use a coffee can with a tuna can (which has holes punched in it with a nail) inverted on the bottom. You could use a glass jar or any other container. If you use a fancy brush washer, line it first with a plastic freezer bag to save yourself some messy cleanup later on.

2. Fill A, B and C halfway with water. Add 1 cup of liquid dishwashing soap to bucket A. Make sure to use a highly concentrated, good quality liquid soap for this as the cheaper brands are diluted and you have to use more for it to be effective.

3. Now for the brush cleaning method I use: First of all, dip your brush in the vegetable oil and wipe it on an old phone book until much of the color is released. Second, rinse the brush in the can to get more of the pigment out - this will eventually fall to the bottom of the container.

You can use any kind of vegetable oil for this, so I use whatever is cheapest. You can also mix some water with the oil if you keep the mixture in a jar and shake it up just before use and that will make it less thick. Walnut oil is nice to use as it is less viscous, but it is much more expensive. The only downside to using regular old vegetable oil is that you have to be sure to wash the brushes more thoroughly to get all that non-drying oil out.

Squeeze the bristles and wipe on a paper towel to get as much oil and pigment out of the brush as you can. Then, vigorously swish the brush in container A, then container B and finally container C. Wipe the brush on a paper towel or rag to see if any color remains. If it doesn't seem to be completely clean, repeat this process until clean.

When container A becomes too dirty, transfer the contents to container D and allow the liquid to evaporate, eventually leaving a dry cake of pigment which can be safely disposed of by taking it to your local hazardous waste disposal centre. When your cleaning oil becomes unusable, it can be recycled in the same manner. Pour container B into A and pour the contents of C into B. Add another cup of liquid dishwashing soap to what is now in container A.

There you have it, an environmentally friendly method of cleaning your oil painting brushes that does not involve any pigments escaping into our septic systems or drinking water!

*stock photo

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Painting Challenge Continues in January 2017

Just in case anyone has wondered what happened to my painting challenge, I will be finishing my painting challenge in January.

In the meantime I am working on a larger project that I look forward to sharing with you later on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 11 of 21

7 x 5 inches - Oil on Panel - Doggie

I love animals and capturing them for posterity in a portrait is such a treat. What a great gift for someone who is obsessed with their pet!

This one is non-commissioned, so is available at a special, lower price concurrent with my other work of this size!

My small (8x10 inches or less) commissioned pet portraits are currently on sale (for a limited time) at so click here for more information about how to commission a unique and meaningful gift for a loved one who treasures their dog or cat!

If you want something bigger, shoot me an email to discuss your project! 

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Collage of Daily Painting Challenge for September!

This was kind of fun! I used picmonkey (a free, online image editing software), to make a collage of some of the paintings I completed in September.

The 30 in 30 challenge by Leslie Saeta, which I kind of failed at, once again, due to starting way late and then getting sick, is over, but my challenge is not! Click on the link for her site to see other collages of people who actually did paint 30 pieces, which is very impressive.

I have set a goal to complete 21 paintings and I haven't met that quota yet so the work continues....

Friday, September 30, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 10 of 21 - Paris Floral #2

16 x 12 inches - Oil on Canvas - Paris Floral #2
Life is continuing to get in the way of creating new work, but I still want to remain focused on art as much as I can. I am progressing in getting my studio organized, work completed, signed and varnished so I can tackle my latest large portrait painting next month.

Here is yet another painting (from June 2006) that needed a signature. This is a favourite of mine, since the resource photo I used was from a memorable trip to Paris with my two small children. Somehow, flower shops in Paris there seem to have "a certain something" in the way they group and display their wares.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 9 of 21 - Spring Fountain

9 x 6 inches - Oil on Panel - Spring Fountain

Here is another previous painting (from June 2007), now finally signed and ready for framing! I love the bleeding heart and forget-me-not floating in the fountain.  It was such a beautiful day, I remember well the serenity of the moment.

Since tomorrow is the last day of Leslie Saeta's "30 in 30" painting challenge, in November I will be continuing my daily painting habit on my own. My goal is to be focused on either finishing some paintings that have been in storage, waiting for completion or to do a new, small painting.

I have found it very challenging to get started and keep up with this modified version of the challenge, but no regrets - I have done more painting and finished more loose ends than I would otherwise have done this month despite all the roadblocks that have unexpectedly arisen.

As Leslie Saeta would say, it doesn't matter how many you complete but just to get in the studio and paint more!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 8 of 21 - Echinacea

14 x 10 inches - Oil on Canvas - Echinacea

Here is another piece from my pile of previous starts that is now almost done. I still need to varnish, which will unify and bring out the colours, adding depth and a slight sheen to the surface. It is much easier to photograph an unvarnished piece, especially one like this that is mostly low key.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 7 of 21 - Palette Knife Beach Scene

8 x 10 inches - Oil on Canvas Panel - Palette Knife Beach

After being knocked out by a nasty virus, I have resumed my daily painting habit but have changed focus a bit, completing paintings that have piled up waiting for a few finishing touches. It feels good to finally tie up a lot of loose ends.

This painting was done with a palette knife. Every time I work with a palette knife I ask myself why I do not do it more often. The colours stay clean, mix in beautiful, unexpected ways and the bonus is no brush washing at the end of the day!

I learned to use a knife when studying colourist theory at the Cape Cod School of Art (now known as The Cape School of Art). I traveled to Provincetown to paint on the beach with Cedric and Joanette Egeli (with whom I later studied for a whole month at their Maryland studio). Outdoor study of colour is a tradition in Provincetown that continues since the beginning of the 20th century, beginning with Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 6 of 21 - Pink & White Peonies

14 x 18 inches - Oil on Canvas - Peonies #2

This is a larger painting of my favourite flowers that I started some time ago. I made some new decisions, darkening the background and adding contrast for drama.

I also took the opportunity to sign it in a subtle manner with my favourite new tool - a rubber tipped scraper. This method is so much easier than trying to sign with a tiny brush later on.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 5 of 21 - Goldfish

5 x 7 inches - Oil on Panel - Goldfish

Don't you find watching fish swimming around kind of soothing? I love the vibrant oranges, greens and purple in this painting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 4 of 21 - Martini TIme

12 x 9 inches - Oil on Panel - Martini Time

Personally, I am more of a green juice kind of gal, but on occasion an extra dry vodka martini with lots of olives can be fun. The martini glass is waiting for the drink to be poured. I threw in the lemon for colour!

This is a slightly larger painting that I started a long time ago and just finished up.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 3 of 21 - Leeks

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Leeks

With autumn upon us, the bounty found at Farmer's Markets is inspirational.

I loved this big pile of leeks, with just a hint of the red packing case showing at the back. I think a collage of vegetable paintings in the kitchen would be fun and perhaps also give subliminal encouragement to eat more veggies!

Since my two passions are art and food, I think it is time to head into the kitchen to make some soup!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 2 of 21 - Beach Entrance

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Beach Entrance

You know that moment, when you are approaching the beach, when you suddenly catch a glimpse of that turquoise water and soft sand? This was it for me. The stunning view from this rustic boardwalk, through the shade of the trees took my breath away.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Daily Painting Habit Challenge - Day 1 of 21 - Pink Rose

6 x 6 Inches - Oil on Canvas - Glowy Pink Rose

Artist and marketing whiz, Leslie Saeta, holds a 30-day painting challenge two times every year. She also sells her art, teaches workshops, conducts online courses and has a podcast called "Artists Helping Artists". Interestingly, we were born on the exact same day and I think she got all the extra energy and ambition I was supposed to receive. Leslie is a dynamo and so inspiring in her ability to juggle so many things and get stuff done!

Since I was unable to start on schedule, and it is generally thought that it takes 21 days to create a habit, I have decided to embark on a 21-day painting challenge starting today. I tend to paint intensively, in spurts, and when I am able to immerse myself in creating art I usually work on a lot of things at once. It is harder for me to keep up a strict, daily painting habit, since it often seems that I do not have a large enough block of time to get much done. Then, there is all the cleanup required, scraping palettes, storing paint and my most dreaded task - brush washing.

This inaugural painting for my 21-Day Painting Challenge is a close view of a glowy pink rose. I enjoyed using transparent oils as my first layer and added the more opaque layers on top. The paintings I do for this challenge will be available for sale at a special price for a limited time so if you see something you like grab it while you can!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Yellow Rose - Small Floral Oil Painting

6" x 6" oil on stretched canvas

The trick to drawing something this complicated is to grid it into sections (in this case, two lines on each horizontal and vertical aspect will create 9 squares. You can print out a black and white copy and use a ruler to divide your subject into equal boxes or purchase an app such as ValueViewer so that you can do it directly on your device. You can scale up or down but it is easiest to keep the image you are working from the same size as the one you are creating.

With flowers, you can also just wing it and try to suggest and capture the essence of the flower without slavishly copying every petal.