Summit, Before the Storm

18″x24″ pastel on sanded paper

I spent the day on the Pikes Peak Trail today, and I brought the people in the Sammons Cancer building with me.

I was surprised how many people who walked by commented on this painting. I loved the trail stories, Colorado stories, mountain stories, and even beautiful cloud stories. I felt like we all got to travel somewhere beautiful together, through memory and imagination, if only for a moment or two.

I hiked this entire 26 mile trail with my family last summer. It was epic, especially for my youngest who is with me here in this painting. She was 8. The storm hit while we were on the summit, and we had to make a call on what to do. We tracked the storm carefully and found a window we could drop off the summit and (hopefully) make it to tree line before the next wave of electricity. This little girl proved to be a strong and calming leader. It was a strength we wouldn’t have known about with out a challenge. Sometimes hardships, although difficult, let your true colors shine.

I love to paint western clouds and landscapes. If you would like to learn to paint them with me, consider signing up for my Ghost Ranch pastel workshop.

Art Habit #8

Yesterday I went to paint at Baylor Hospital in downtown Dallas. When I arrived to set up, I realized I left my paint in my studio, my studio at my house, 30 minutes away. I had a 16″ square canvas, and almost 4 hours to do a demo. What to do????

First I assessed what I did have: I had a giant tube of white paint. I also had my Pallette garages. A pallette garage is a brilliant way to save leftover oil paint. One has globs of all of my basic colors (unfortunately not freshly reloaded, but it was something), and one had all the leftover paint from my last painting, a landscape. Lots of sky blue left.

So…I made a plan. I planned to paint an aerial view of a cactus in bloom. I decided to make the painting very high key, which is mostly light colors. This would utilize the large tube of white. High key paintings also appear cheerful, which is appropriate when painting in a Cancer wing. Then I decided to do a loose underpainting on the whole panel. I premixed colors to see what I could make work. I decided my cactus would need to be more turquoise than green, and my flowers more pink than red.

Lastly, I decided to work all around the painting, so if I ran out of paint before I was finished it would feel more like a study, or really loose.

“Kaleidoscope” 16″ square oil on panel

And…it is one of my favorite cactus paintings to date. I was able to paint calmly, and not seem frazzled.

Here is a detail, notice those two red circles in the middle are from the underpainting, that part never got finished. I love how the thick and think paint interact.

I made a plan of attack, and then I had a great day painting.

As people walked by it was fun hearing how they interacted with my art. One woman was back in the Southern California of her youth. One woman was taken back to her wedding day, I’ve never seen cactuses those colors, they are the colors of my wedding! One guy sang me “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn” and talked about how that is so true. He know it now that cancer had come into his beautiful marriage, my rose he said. I am so glad I stayed and painted.

Art Habit #7

I shop from a list. I pack from a list. I even read the book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”

Everyday checklists save lives in operating rooms and on airplanes. They also help you to remember that your daughter needed a piece of poster board while you are still in the store shopping. They free your brain up for other important things like making art and day dreaming!

You would think I would have a checklist for my plein air supplies. You would think…but I didn’t before this afternoon. So when I arrived at the hospital today to do a painting, I was so surprised to find everything in my bag except my newly organized and reloaded bag of paint.

Now I have this:

The ideal checklist is less than 9 items long.

I will hang this beauty from the top handle of my plein air pack, and hopefully avoid doing what I had to do today. What is that you might wonder? I will tell you how I handled my problem tomorrow with another art habit.

A rather large start

5’x4′ mixed media

I started this commission that I am super excited about. I made a time lapse video, which makes this slow progress kind of fun to watch. Under everything is a layer of collage from the family: their wedding vows, feeding and diaper notes from when their triplets came home, and preschool papers. It is so special and sweet when those papers hide and seek through a finished painting.

A Texas Field

10″x8″ oil on panel

I have never painted cows before today, I decided “cow” intimidated me. So I painted shapes of light and dark in shadow and light. I carved legs out by painting grass around them. And in the end, I had something that, at least in context, reads as cow.

I have an oil painting class coming up where I am going to break down how to mix color, paint clouds, fields and flowers, and also horses and cows. You can learn more or sign up Here.

Sun Swept

14″x11″ pastel on sanded board

This was a demo for a pastel workshop I am teaching this week. The purpose was to show texture and just enough lines and strokes to make it work.