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Portrait artist, fine artist, educator, student. Trying all means to keep from getting a day job in the tough times, but still supporting myself as an artist! deejaystar@yahoo.com Follow any and all of my blogs. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A demonstration for the Phoenix Art Guild

The dreaded seasonal cold hit the day before, so I found myself preparing well into the "YOU ARE LATE" time...
I did another of my beach kids.
What I love about this set of reference is how in the computer they all sort of seem lifeless - cute and lively but - the apparent monochrome of a beach is so deceptive until I get in there and add color.

I don't have a photo of the underpainting. Actually, I was lucky to get the paint ON The paper but the picture just started to blossom.

This is what walked out the door on Monday night.

I slept a near 24 hours full of nyquil and felt much better on Wednesday so I worked a bit to this point.

I LOVE the looseness of the pastels over color!

I think it will be titled "Foam Harvesters".

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Score!

I was invited to the opening at the State Fair, but I didn't go. They had blank spots next to "place" on the acceptance card. I felt depressed, so I stayed home.
BUT a good friend sent along this photo which cheered me up!

Red Ribbons are REALLY pretty!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Not first prize, but I did get an honorable mention on the Jerry's Artarama contest! Watch the site, they should be posting soon:

Now, on to the AZ State Fair where it will be on display until November!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Carribean Kid - alcohol for underpainting

I decided to rework a watercolor I had done a couple of years ago as a pastel for entry into a contest for a specific pastel brand.

Normally I use watercolor for my underpainting as a great way to make an over all neutral tone, but I wanted to make a piece completely with pastel, so I took a heavier 300# rough watercolor paper and some 95% rubbing alcohol (denatured will evaporate faster, but I was happy to have the slush time) and scrubbed over areas to push some color in the pits of the rough paper:

Laying in the painting areas, I continued with heavy scrubbing and breaking down so the coverage would allow the peaks of the paper to rub off color from the stick and the lower areas be a bit darker and more colorful:

As I went I would use a dry brush to scrub back some of the more broken areas and rewet spots to reinforce darks. This is the only way I have found that you can actually make mud when using pastel. If you blend with your sticks, you can keep clean and brilliant colors.

A detail shows the difference with the dissolved colors in the pits of the paper with the pure pastel on top:

I submitted this to the Mungyo competition on Jerry's Artarama site and just dropped it of to the Arizona State Fair as well.

Cross your fingers for me!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Normally I like to be thought of as perfect. For that reason, I like to save the mistakes and not show you... but this is a rather large landscape and it was GOING to give me fits.

First. I wanted to have a sense of the clouds in front of the thunderhead. I also liked the definate dominance of that shape. The hills in my reference actually dropped off to the right and the bushes sort of merged into a mass down in the corner. So I redrew my horizon and cut a bit off that last ranged.

And that left me with a very tricky color thing on that butte in the middle range. I am really off with it... tomorrows brain power.

Second, that landscapey part at the bottom. Don't enjoy it, not too fond of it, so I have it in my head to eliminate.... but as I did that ONE good thing happened. I widened the path of earth making the reason for all that salmon color more functional.

The bushes are still to spotty, the sense of land is there, and a bit too polka dotty. I LIKE my cactus in the middle. Problem is making it part of a sequence that makes it work. I am still working on it to see if I can keep it....
So here we are today.

As a portrait painter, I always tell people how I am trying to portray a scene with the intensity I do a face. The details kill me! I see a zillion leaves, not a tree.

I think this may be called successful enough but from a portrait painter, not really a landscape painter. I have a few more ideas, but I am learning (perhaps ONLY by the mistakes) a few thing I want to try again in the next picture...

Oh, by the way... it would be a really good time to enroll in my workshop in Prescott. After Monday there are no refunds, so risk it! Call them.

See you there!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Done. But not finished.

Or is that finished but not done???
I have accomplished the first objective I set for myself and it covers the page nicely and shows what I wanted.

I use fixative. When I see what I want, I usually mist the whole thing with workable fixative so it is more sturdy and I can work back into it. The big drawback to simple paper is that it fills pretty quickly. The pastel medium is much more toothy, but I still am used to "sinking" the piece.


I believe pastellist should learn to use fixative. It is a terrible burden on your framer to hand him a pile of dust and say make it stand up and not fall off. There are geniuses who will, but especially amateurs on a budget, it is awful to get an inexpensive, art supply store novice who will either spray it themselves for lack of knowledge, ruin it with mishandling, or not know how to deal with the dust and end up with colorful white mats. Learning to use fixative is, again, working from the darkest areas up. When you fix the basic piece it WILL often darken. SO, lighten up the areas and don't fix the last layers. Still an improvement for your framer.

Back to me...
I have received some valuable input from a good pastel landscapist and I am going to ponder it now. I want to look at the piece and see what I don't like.

I will read the advice of my friend and see if it applies to my problems and get back into it and fix up the lighter values and possibly repaint some of it.... but I DO like my cloud!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When you have an underpainting and are too anxious.

Having had to leave for an appointment I came in and was having so much fun with my cloud, I really felt the need to make that sky very flat. The nupastels I use were not hacking it. Because I used the Medium, I decided to try another experiment and took some sanitizing alcohol (the hotshots use denatured stuff, but I am not a hotshot and it makes it look all watercolory, which is EXACTLY what I want it to look like!

These are a real pain to photograph because the early light on the sketch was perfect. As the afternoon wore on, the skylight got darker so I turned on a lamp. LOTS of color wackiness. I will try to balance the pictures, even if they are not really true representations of the painting....

After tackling the sky, I decided the foreground plants were not right either. My limited palette was discouraging, so I just added some pure viridian watercolor to juice up the bushes.

Remember I am not a landscape painter, so this is going to go on instinct for a while and when I have what I call "covered" which is something I do in oil as well (I give myself permission to live with it a while and the rest will be tweaking. Sometimes it turns out to be done, but I reserve the signing for a while.)I will hit it with some workable fixative and let it darken a bit. I am having most fun playing with the multiple colors and their value properties. The simplest combinations can make radical changes... and the photography is really going to be hard to show it... ah well, back into the dust!


I hate to say it, but there is NOTHING as fun as making pastels. It is so controlable and out of control at the same time!! I have to leave for an appointment and have been..."wrapping up" a bit for almost two hours....

Better than drugs for depression!

Fingers crossed.

It is not that my technique is better suited to figurative, in fact, most people would think the opposite, but I have challenged myself to do the impossible: A landscape.

I have some pretty nifty reference that I have been mulling over in my mind quite a while. This is a nearby view that I think will suit my needs as far as shapes and values. And one big cloud.

For this I did something new. I used an underpaint of a pastel medium by golden.... WHY WOULD I SPLURGE? I had some sample jars and a friend gave me three more. Time to play on someone else's penny.

It has ONE good quality. The paper did most of the buckling when it was applied, but because it is a little dryer, when I made my underpaint, it shrinked down a little and stayed relatively flat. No photos, as I was sort of stuck in my brain, but here is the first stop this morning in daylight.

We will keep in touch with this one.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Progress Shot

I wanted not to scare off the participants, so I did a couple more hours work on the demo. It is being refined for color and relationships. The photo may be updated when I re-photograph it in daylight, but for now, one can see it does actually not end up being abstract expressionistic, and can be refined quite nicely into recognizable realism:


Short Demo for Prescott Class

It was a beautiful day and apart from having the flames of a dry brush fire chase me up to Prescott Arizona, I had a great demonstration to promote my workshop on June 18, 19 and 20 at the Mountain Arts Guild, 228 North Alarcon in Prescott, Arizona.

Because I wanted to be sure to see the progress of the technique, which I have shown you here, I brought a couple of pieces to demonstrate.

This first one was underpainted and begun but put aside to work on during the main demo as the painting dried.

The main demo was a drawing only when I came in but I showed some of my work and explained the simple reasons that I used the colors and why... and then demonstrated that the more important part was instinct and artistic eye.

While the watercolors dried, I worked on the prepped piece and got to this point.

The real excitement of this process is how the negative shape reveals the larger elements.

When dry, this piece which began as a charcoal sketch, was fleshed out and left like this:

I hope the standing room audience found the speed and freedom of this technique something they can use in all of their work, not just pastels.

The workshop will involve a bit of demo on how to use a computer to help visualize improbable colors to use under your subjects, in order to produce vibrancy and energy. I tried to stress that the most important thing in my workshop is having a sense of where you are aiming the painting before you begin and a willingness to do it wrong.

I understand someone once asked Edison how it felt to be the man who figured out how to bring light to the world. He said he was more proud of the over 600 ways he learned NOT to!

Please, contact me or http://mountainartistsguild.org and click the workshops link on the header for all the information to come out and spend a nice long weekend in the hills of Arizona.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Class in Mesa

Because I am starting to promote my class this summer in Prescott, I figured I would post a little of some of my work in a class I teach every week in Mesa Arizona. This is a great group of exceptionally talented Seniors (and just under) who have figured out how to keep their homes tidy and come out every Wednesday for a casual paint-together. I pick up after lunch with a group I call Art Coach. My only goal is to HELP IMPROVE THEIR WORK. I try hard not to teach, per se, but to understand what they want to accomplish in their own work and demonstrate for an hour some technique of mine that they can use or ignore.

This month I started with a very brief version of the Pastel Over Watermedia. Much like my demonstration will be at the Mountain Art Center at the end of May.

I used a cold pressed watercolor taped to a chunk of foam core. It was a revelation! I was taught to put a pat of newspapers under the paper for than nice bounce that makes pastels push much better than on a hard surface. Fit my easel and was nice and soft.

After sketching from my photo, I make sure the resulting drawing DEFINES THE EDGES that I need to keep track of as the painting progresses.

The less lines the better. It is going to get lost anyway! Because I am going to saturate and scrub the under-painting, I did use some workable fixative but this was in graphite. Graphite has a lot of durability that charcoal does not. It is a bane in oils and slippery but when you see what we do with it, you understand.

Next I scrub... and I LIKE to scrub... my under-painting of inexpensive acrylics. I use up the old and nasty stuff for this. I also like it, because I keep throwing out the hard and dead tubes as I prep for the demonstration. One can acquire a few too many paints.

In the class I explain the under-painting does three things: Individually or all at once, the colors you put on can support the values, by darkening areas that you want to go dark, complement colors for extra vibrancy or intensify a color using analogous hues. I have done a little of everything in this:

I ran into the ladies room (because I forgot my hair dryer) and using the hand dryer in there, made sure all the water was out of the paper. This works best when SCRUBBED into the surface. This demonstration came out much lighter than I had intended so I will have a darker general appearance, as I have to build up darks to give the appearance of lighter. (I use inexpensive NuPastels for about 85% of the piece before the light bright soft pastels, and the contrast is what makes us see light and dark.) THEN I reinforced the drawing with compressed charcoal or pastel.

Even light edges that touch other light edges but have major color changes are good to map out. My other trick is a transparent tracing paper sketch that can flip back and forth to correct from. As a solo painter, it keeps me from walking over to visit the neighbors in the middle of the night for a fresh eye!!!

Class began progressing and I talked a bit and forgot to shoot much, but the first thing I did above was limit my value range by finding the lightest part of the painting - in this case her eyes - and the darkest part near by. I make a note with a stick and DON'T ever use white or black. In this case it was a yellow butter color and green.... yes I used great for her blue eyes, because it was dark.... then I started trying to lay in my shadows and general tones.

I endeared myself to the class by admitting I goofed! The sticks I had on hand were ALL very middle values. Few strong darks and almost no light flesh tones. I got to show how to improvise.

If you don't have the right stick, you can literally mix colors. In the light areas of the skin, I used a lot of that buttery yellow OVER the darker pinks to actually make lighter colors. When the colors are too strong but you don't have the proper gray tones, or too light or even too dark, a good five or six simple gray sticks will work to lower intensity and control values. Using colored lights AND a light gray I was able to start blending up in the skin while beginning to darken the shadows with browns.

At the end of the demo, I was able to sit IN FRONT of my piece and start rethinking some of the drawing issues I had lost with the initial chalking in.

The gang went wild. I must say I was over at the sink encouraging splashing and slopping of the under-painting and that fear of losing the image was very intimidating, but it was quite well received.

Next week, I will try to finish up and show how to use fixative as a tool and when to hit the big guns (and money) with the buttery soft pastels. I could see their brains start to wrap around the idea in the students that attempted it

Back next week or next pastel!