Continuing Education

Back in 2015 while volunteering at a local gallery, I saw a pastel displayed behind the reception desk. I thought why can’t my pastels look that good.

I took down the name of the artist and did some research. I found out she taught classes and workshops. From mid-2015 through 2016 I was a part-time student whenever there was an open slot in the classes and became a full-time student in 2017.

The classes helped me improve my skills. While classes will no longer meet weekly we will continue to gather every so often to critique finished work and help get suggestions on other pieces.

Over the past year, I’ve taken  classes regarding other mediums. I took an online class on watercolorlasy spring. Participants were given access to online videos  then we met the instructor for a critique of our work. While the videos were helpful, I wanted some basic information on watercolor painting to learn things that I either didn’t know or may have forgotten.

I found an online watercolor class by Liz Steel. She’s a well known urban sketcher (watercolor painting mixed with pen and ink). Here website is

It’s only been a few weeks into the class but I’ve enjoyed it very much. She gives students a lot of information (downloadable lesson plans) with  demonstrations videos to help you complete your homework for the week.

Last fall, I participated in a Make It, Take It class on Acrylics. It is very much like the paint night events people go to with their friends. The only difference is the teacher is a local artist and the image you paint that evening is based on the artwork of that artist. I don’t work in Acrylics normally so it’s nice to learn something about a new medium and how to apply it to an artwork.

Of course there are other mediums I could try. It’s always nice to try something new as well as develop new skills. As an artist, it is also a way to meet other artists and learn about their work.

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!! I hope everyone enjoyed the first day of 2018 and everyone looks forward to the coming year.

I’ll continue to work on my pastels honing the skills I learned during my classes in 2017. I plan to review class notes evaluating areas I  did well and where I need to continue to improve.  I know I should create more notans and small sketches to determine the best composition for a piece.

In regards to exhibition opportunities, I am looking into a few possibilities in the next month or so (submitting artwork to be juried for acceptance to an exhibit). Another opportunity has presented itself but I’ll say more about it once I have finalized what needs to be done.

Finally, I have signed up for a pastel class in March. I took workshops with Shelly Eager in late 2015 and early 2016. When I saw a chance to sign up for a workshop, I did because classes and workshops at this Association go quickly. I also signed up for an online watercolor sketching class. I know when I did the 30 Day Challenge of creating a watercolor each day, my paintings became better over the course the challenge. I’ve seen this artist’s work online and thought it would be an interesting class. I’ll learn more about watercolor plus sketching on location with pen, ink and watercolor.

Best wishes to everyone for a great 2018!!



Yesterday I attended an art critique. A local group has put together bi-monthly critiques open to the public. I’ve participated in group critiques during classes and workshops but I haven’t attended critiques open to artists working in various mediums. A critique allows you to gage whether or not your artwork connects with an audience.

It was a small group working in Oils, Fabric Arts, and Pastels (me). As with any critique, you have to introduce the work. You give a quick background (why or how you came to be an artist) and discuss the work displayed. Some artists depicted realistic subject matters and others worked in abstractions. It was interesting to see the various styles.

Overall, the feedback for me was positive. I showed two works from June 2017 from the Minuteman National Park near the Old North Bridge. One participant knew before I said it that the area was near the bridge (the bridge was not featured in either of the two pastels).

The main questions about my work involved composition, mats, and frames. Ironically, the current pastel class I’m taken is all about composition. I’ll apply what I’m learning to future works. Perhaps the one thing I need to do to make my compositions stronger is to sketch out various compositions before working on the larger piece. I don’t normally make many small sketches of one scene. With the small sketches, I can determine if I need to focus on one area more than another or if I need to zoom in to find the best composition.  I need to get into the habit of making smaller sketches to test things out.

Mats and frames are always hard for any artist. Many times when you submit artwork into a juried competition, you use a standard white mat. When you are displaying your work in a non-juried exhibit you may choose any color. When working with a professional framer he or she may suggest certain mats (colors and surface texture). The framer may suggest a color that will not detract from the artwork, a color that is the primary color seen in the artwork, or a color that will  enhance the over piece. My framer suggested a color she thought worked well with my landscapes. A mid-tone violet was suggested as violets where used in the underpainitng and could be seen peeking through the greens of the landscape. Those attending the critique wanted to see seen a lighter mat.

At the critique, they were not sure about the frames I chose. Frames are always hard. You try to be either consistent with the frames used or work within your budget while still trying to use frames that will work best for the artwork. Ironically, while this group wasn’t to sure about my frames a few people who had seen my exhibit in August commented how they liked the frames and thought they worked well with the pieces. It just shows everyone has their own opinion and it’s hard to get a 100% consensus.

Color Theory

On Tuesday, we continued with our pastel class focusing on Color Confidence. We played with neutral colors plus saw how analogous colors worked compared to complementary colors.

At the store where I work, we had a gouache artist present a demo in the spring. She believed  it was important artists create their own color wheels to fully understand and appreciate how colors work. I remember learning about the color wheel in school but I don’t specifically recall mixing pigments to learn about color.

In college, the teacher in one of my first art classes had his students use colored pages in regards to color theory. I’ll have to think about his reasoning for it but I remember we used these pages during the semester in various exercises. I don’t recall any classes after that point where we spent time discussing color theory by mixing colors.

I feel I may have missed something by not mixing pigments. I’m glad the subject matter for this month’s class is Color Confidence. During the first two classes, I learned a lot about mixing neutrals and how they can be used to make colors around them stand out. These exercises will be very beneficial as I continue with my art.

New Value Study

Well, it’s not perfect but much better.

When viewing the black and white photograph of the study you can see I’m still not quite there but much better than my first try (See previous post for first attempt).

I think one thing is certain from this exercise. I need to work on determining mid-tones values. Ultimately, I should purchase a few mid-tones of various colors.

While the study isn’t perfect, I wanted to apply it to an actual photograph of a landscape. Does have the right values make a painting work regardless of the colors/hues used in the artwork. Below is the pastel using the various colors in the new Value Study

Do those colors work? This scene depicts pine trees along a small lake. In the reflection you see the trees as well as the sky. Here’s the original black and white photograph. Tell me does the colors from the Value Study work?

It’s So Good because it’s So Bad!

What’s wrong with this photo?

It’s So Good because it’s So Bad….

We are discussing Color Confidence in our OctoberPastel Class. Over the next few weeks, we are doing exercises dealing with value (light vs dark), chroma (bright vs dull) and temperature (warm vs cool).

Our first exercise would really hit home the idea that while color gets all the glory, value does all the work! First we were tasked with picking out one hue in varying values. In my values photo, the top row showcases a violet hue ranging from lightest to darkest on a scale of 1 to 5. The thought process is in painting it does not matter the color you use as long as it matches in value. If you have the correct value, the color will work in the painting.

In the other rows we were asked to pick colors matching them to their corresponding value. It’s more difficult than you’d think!

A previous pastel teacher once said she could easily pick out colors based on value without thinking about it. In singing, this person would be known as having perfect pitch. Most people are not that lucky. I am one of those unlucky people (not being able to pick out values so easily)

There were a number of times, I found a color that I thought could be a two or a three value and took a chance in placing it in squares of the exercise. When I completed study, I took a photo of the piece and converted it to black and white. Here’s where you can see the mistakes.

That’s why I say it’s So Good because it’s So Bad. Obviously, I’ll correct the value study. The more I work on it, the better I’ll become at determine values and picking colors that will work cohesively in an artwork.

Here’s a photograph showing how to fix a few of the mistakes  once I correct the values. Knee completed, I can move onto the next step by taking these values and applying them to an artwork such as a still life or landscape. I’ll post on that part of the exercise later this week

Sometimes the best way to learn is to make mistakes.