Out of Our Comfort Zone

"If we are growing, we are always going to be out of our comfort zone." John Maxwell

I thought I could paint more loosely, less tightly, if I painted small.  Instead, I painted tighter than ever, trying to hold onto control of the painting!

Well, at least I was trying to push myself out of my comfort zone at the Robert Carsten workshop this past weekend at the Southern Vermont Art Center.  It is amazing how we resist ourselves, even when we want to change the way we do things. The painting above is an example of this. I'm not displeased, but I was wanting to let go of my old ways at this workshop. Robert is an excellent teacher, by the way. Take a class with him if he comes to your area.

Taking classes and one time workshops can help you come out of your comfort zone. My classes will be taking a winter recess, but will return in January!

Stay tuned... and keep playing with your pastels!

A New Perspective

I am more than happy to learn that this painting has been accepted into the 2017 International Association Of Pastel Societies, (IAPS) online juried show. I don't know what criteria the jurors used to select this painting but composition may have played a part.

We have been discussing composition in the class I teach in beginning pastel. I wish that I had had more instruction in how to create a painting with good composition. So that is why I try to teach this early on in a beginner's experience.

One thing to consider is "point of view." This painting looks down on the subject rather than composing it from a straight on point of view. This does not necessarily make it better or more interesting, but is something to consider when looking at a subject. There are also "leading lines" (the spoons) and "repeated pattern" (the rims of the cups) that contribute to the success of the composition.

Maybe I will win an award, but probably not. There are so…

I'd like to be those flowers...

"I smell the flowers blooming, opening for spring
I’d like to be those flowers, open to everything"
from "Bird Song" by the Wailin' Jennys 
I was surprised to learn that I won an award at the Vermont Pastel Society's juried show this past week.  The Judge was Doug Dawson, an important and revered contemporary pastel artist. I was just happy to get in! This painting, "Open to Everything"won the Pastel Society of Cape Cod Award and I am very honored.
Mr. Dawson said that he liked "the simple direct strokes and the way the artist exploited the surface quality of the board." Did he know that this was a disaster painting that I washed off and re-surfaced with clear gesso and repainted? Sometimes I think these master pastelists are wizards!
He was right, I was responding to the rougher quality of the surface and because I had already failed at my first attempt, I allowed myself to paint more directly. Almost defiantly!
This painting has won other a…

Good Company

"Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter." Izaak Walton

Thanks to all of you who came to the Open House on October 26th to see my work in my second corporate show, "Tea & Co." here in Middlebury, VT. The music, the food and the enthusiastic crowd was wonderful!
We are all on a journey of one sort or another. Being new in the area, I was touched by the number of my new friends who came out to support me on a rainy night as I follow my artistic journey.

Making art is risky business! We put ourselves out there even knowing that our work will be judged. Liked by some and not by others. It can be very scary, so I find it is important to surround myself with people who are going to "lift me higher."

Because not every painting is a gem! The surface I used for All the Tea in China had a painting on it that was a disaster. I washed it off with water and then tried to hide the image of the old painting by using a brush and rubbing alcohol. You can…

Dreams with Deadlines

"Goals are dreams with deadlines."
I have been painting like crazy these past few weeks. I had a goal of painting ten new paintings for my next solo show. I have completed seven in the last two weeks. Apparently, a deadline is an effective motivator for me!

I invite you all to come to the opening celebration for Marble Trail Financial here in Middlebury. I was asked to be the first artist to grace the walls of their newly renovated space on the second floor of the old Court House building here in Middlebury. The Open House is from 5 - 7 on October 26th. I have a wonderful accountant who is a part of this group and I highly recommend their services.

"Tea & Co." will feature paintings related to the joys of enjoying a cup of tea! The first step in creating a still life painting is the set up. This is one method I use to get dramatic lighting for my paintings.

Notice that my studio lights are turned off so that I have one clear source of lighting. I then take a ref…

The Eye Loves Repetition

"The eye loves repetition, but does not want to be bored. It likes familiarity, but needs surprises" Edith Bergstrom
Using repetition in the design of a painting is much like including the drum beat in a musical composition. It can drive and move the piece. With the addition of some variations it can really be pleasing to look at.

I planned this painting using the repetition of three identical teacups filled with tea (Constant Comment... one of my favorites!)

The variation, of course, is in the differing variations of placement in the teaspoons. If you are having trouble thinking of a good composition for your next painting, try out this concept.

And have fun playing with your pastels!


"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes... including you." Ann Lamott

My go-to recommendation for myself or a loved one who is upset or agitated is to "make a cup of tea." I serve tea in my studio where I teach classes, too. It is good to step away from our work and unplug for a few minutes to let the art-making settle into place. We can then return, calm and with clear eyes, to continue on the journey of making something beautiful.
Our feelings of stress in painting sometimes come from our unwillingness to plan a little before we begin. Take time to make a map.

I was more relaxed and happy doing this painting, "High Tea", because I mapped out two important  steps before I began.

I carefully drew my subject with charcoal. With this subject I knew I had to get the ellipses pretty perfect! I used my kneaded eraser a lot!I spent a lot of time adding values to the drawing with charcoal. 
I had my road map.  I only needed to do one…