Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Back Into the Blogosphere

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

After a long absence, I plan to post regularly again.  It’s been a difficult few months. Chronic pain from an old injury is no fun!  I’m glad to say that I’ve made great progress in these past months and have hope that I will continue to grow stronger and be able to ward off the worst pain.

Over the months, I’ve had time to think about life, about art, about my passions, and what I still want to accomplish in my life.  Although it has been 13 years since I’ve been in remission from breast cancer (after 10 years, one is considered “cured”), I never stop feeling the press of time, especially as I age.

Sunrise over the Rogue Valley

As much as I love to paint and still feel the urge to do so, I’m going to continue my sabbatical from art for the present.  My other passion is family history and genealogy – and of course, my parrots.  Both of these particular passions are currently receiving all of my attention right now.

My favorite uncle Hank Domagalski, a World War II bomber pilot in the Pacific theater,  used to be the family memory keeper.  He was the only one who made 8 mm films and interviews of family members and events.  When he passed away a few years ago,  these materials came to me and I’m slowly gathering material to self-publish a number of books about my family lines.   If you are interested, you can read a short article I wrote about my father’s family at this link (my article is on pages 6 and 7 of the pdf here).   This type of research takes quite a lot of time and thought, and it is something I feel I must do as a legacy to my family.

My parrots and my house rabbit are doing just great.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing for the addition of one more rescue parrot into my family, and I’ll be posting more about that later.   This photo shows my rabbit Bun Rab checking out the carrier in which I’ll be transporting my new charge by airplane.  I’m very excited!

So that’s my news for now.

How to Paint with Watercolor – Paints.1

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

paletteCommenting on a previous post about “Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered,” Mandy asked what supplies would be useful for beginning to paint with watercolor.

First, let me preface this post with a very important point:  ART HAS TO BE FUN.  If you are going into art – in any media – with a sense of duty or obligation or if you think you can do something better than someone else to prove your talents, forget it!  It will become a chore and a yoke around your neck.  Creativity can’t happen under this heavy burden.  While art is a lot of things, the one thing that touches people most when they view art  is sensing a joy or passion from the creation.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get down to practicalities.

You need some basic supplies:

1.  Watercolor paper (often called a “support”).  I’ve written extensively about what to use in some previous posts here and here.

2.  Watercolor brushes, which I’ve also written about previously in this post.

3.  Lastly, you need watercolor paints.

Since I haven’t written much about the watercolor paints I use, this post will cover paints.

Paints – What brands?

You can use whatever brands you like, but I recommend you don’t start with student grade paints.

When I began painting watercolors in earnest, I gravitated toward the tried and true standards of Winsor & Newton.  Winsor & Newton  is based in England and has been making pigments since 1832.  They now provide watercolor, gouache,  oils, and acrylics.  They are great paints, most of them tested for lightfastness and reliability in performance.  They also provide a brochure that shows each shade they offer, its properties (transparent, opaque, granulating, etc.) , lightfastness, toxicity, etc. Any reputable art supply store will carry this brand, as well as the mega art supply store online:  I get most of my supplies from Dick Blick as it often happens that the paints I get from my local store are not fresh.  Dick Blick has a fast turnover of paints so they’re always of good quality.

Please note, however, that Winsor & Newton produces two grades:  Cotman and Artist’s.  Cotman is the student version; Artist’s grade is what you should use, whether you are a student or a professional.  I know, the Artist’s grade is pricey!  But in the long run, you’ll be so much happier with results if you pay a little more now.  Besides, you don’t need a huge palette of colors to begin with.  You can start out with a basic dozen and then add more as you have money to spend.

Note:  W &N carries at least 2 sizes of paint tubes (5 ml and 14 ml) , so you can buy small tubes to begin with, which will be more manageable financially.  Unless you are painting very large works, these small tubes will last a long time.

Other brands I use are Holbein, which is made in Japan.  I find this brand very consistent.  Sometimes I find shades that are more intense and slightly different than Winsor & Newton, so I add a tube to my box now and then.

The only other brand I’ve tried is a relatively new one (since 1976) :  Daniel Smith, based in Seattle, Washington.  Not all the colors are lightfast.  You have to study them online ( or request a catalog and read carefully.  But I love their quinacridone series for unique shades and intense colors!  I have about a dozen of their tubes.

The key here is experimentation.  You may find you like a range of colors produced by one brand and another range that suits you in another brand.

What colors to start with and how many?

If you are seriously penny-pinching, you can start with just 6 colors that contain the basics.   These are the colors I began with (all Winsor & Newton), which you can pick and choose from.  I’ve included a sample, but each computer monitor will translate them differently, so nothing will be entirely true – just to give you an orientation :



New Gamboge

New Gamboge

Winsor Yellow

Winsor Yellow



Raw Umber

Raw Umber

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna



Pthalo Blue

Pthalo Blue

Mineral Violet

Mineral Violet

Hooker's Green

Hooker's Green

Sap Green

Sap Green

In the next post, I’ll talk about some interesting characteristics of certain paints and how to start using them.  Don’t worry, it’s a lot of fun and can be quite exciting!

Vincent Van Gogh and His Drawings.3

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

drawing4This is called Portrait of Patience Escalier done with reed pen and ink over graphite on paper, 1888.  Vincent wrote to Theo:   “Shortly you are going to make the acquaintance of Mr. Patience Escalier, a sort of man with a hoe, former drover of the Camargue, now gardener at a farm in the Crau. Today I am sending you the drawing I made after this painting.”

Vincent painted two portraits of Patience Escalier.  I prefer the warmer tones of the version I’ve included.

As I mentioned in part 1, Van Gogh was keenly interested in the life of peasants and workers, so it’s no surprise that he drew and painted so many.

When I first saw this portrait, I was stunned at how much Van Gogh was able to portray in the eyes of Patience.  Van Gogh shows me a person who has worked very hard in life, who has suffered much, but someone who also seems kind.  It made me think that Van Gogh could never have captured all these qualities so clearly without having recognized and experienced them himself.

painting1For all you painters and non-painters alike, Van Gogh’s thoughts on being active and facing fears are timely:  “If one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of failures, one must not be afraid of making some mistakes. Many people think they they will become good by doing no  harm; that’s a lie…it leads to stagnation, to mediocrity…. 

“Just dash something down when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face with a certain imbecility.  You do not know how paralyzing that staring of a blank canvas is; it says to the painter, You can’t do anything. The canvas stares at you like an idiot, and it hypnotizes some painters, so that they themselves become idiots. Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the really passionate painter who is daring – and who has once and for all broken that spell of ‘you cannot’….”

Vincent was always worried about draining his brother’s resources.  One of the circumstances that most surely must have contributed to his deepening depression toward the end of his life was that Theo was married and recently had a child and was feeling financial strain.  Vincent did not want to be a burden to his brother.

Theo was at his brother’s side when Vincent died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  Vincent’s recent paintings were hung around his coffin.  The coffin itself was covered with yellow sunflowers and dahlias.  Theo is quoted as saying:  “It was his favorite color, if you remember, symbol of the light that he dreamed of finding in hearts as in artworks.”  Theo was heartbroken and perhaps drained from caring for his brother and family.  Theo died 6 months later and the two brothers are buried side by side in France.

After having read so many excerpts of Van Gogh’s letters, studied his drawings and paintings, I feel like he has become a friend and mentor.  While he had to suffer so much during his lifetime – and depended on his brother Theo for monthly monetary help to survive (remember, he was not selling any of his paintings at the time, though Theo, as an art dealer,  tried to sell them)  – he nonetheless managed to create a monumental body of art that continues to inspire.

The Rape of Europa

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I recently watched a most unusual and deeply affecting documentary. “The Rape of Europa” chronicles Hitler’s rise to power and his ever-growing desire to collect the world’s art masterpieces for a grandiose museum he was planning in the city of Linz, Austria.

That museum never materialized, but throughout the duration of World War II, Hitler and Herman Goering amassed vast collections of some of the world’s most famous art treasures. They did this through escalating greed and systematic stealing from the great collections – privately- and state-owned. And of course, collections owned by Jewish art lovers were taken without any regard whatsoever.

Over the years, I’ve read a fair amount of literature and history about World War II, Hitler, and the Holocaust. Somehow, this film did more to underscore emotionally for me the wholesale and senseless destruction resulting from this war than anything else I’ve read and seen.

There is a large amount of film footage from the 30s and 40s in this documentary – of Hitler exhibiting “degenerate” (read: modern) art before the war began, of the looting and destruction of art meccas like Florence, Italy, and so much more.

But there are also amazing stories of courage and dedication – of how the Mona Lisa and the major works of art from the Louvre were spirited out of the museum to the French countryside before Hitler invaded France, of individuals who risked their lives to hide and save the cultural icons of their countries.

And there is the story of the “Monuments Men” – museum directors, curators, members of the Army, and others who worked to protect art and other cultural treasures from destruction during and after the war. It is estimated by the US, that the Nazis stole about 1/5 of all the known artworks in Europe. According to the Rape of Europa website, “While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art—the last, forgotten victims of the war—survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.”

This DVD is quite amazing and very moving. I was left with the idea that recurs throughout human history: Art is what makes us human and art is worth saving at great personal cost..

Art Saves Lives

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

My sister gave me this pin for Christmas, and it sparked a line of thinking that I’d like to share.

Art – as we think of it in the usual context – does indeed save lives in an emotional and spiritual sense. So many times in my life, seeing something beautiful that someone else has created out of love or yearning does something to lift my spirits or touch my heart. It can also be life-changing at critical times.

But there are other kinds of art too – the “skill in conducting any human activity.” These skills can save lives too.

2009 will be challenging emotionally and financially for my family as we deal with the excision of the rare tumor my sister Carrie has in her jaw. We already know that it will take most of the year for the entire jaw reconstruction process to be completed. She’ll face many fears, experiences large losses, and feel a lot of physical pain, but she is a very dear person and her special art is her honesty and the way she brings light to others (well,that, and also being a fantastic cook!). So I figure she’ll burn all the brighter for her experiences.

I know some people who never see that they also are masters of very important art forms: the art of smiling, the art of kindness, the art of storytelling, the art of caring for animals with a passion and deep respect, the art of cooking, the art of being a good friend, the art of listening – well, you see my drift?

All these arts do save lives, believe me! So from one artist to another (and that means all of you), thank you for keeping up your skills, and may they bring you joy and satisfaction in this new year.

Birds, Birds, and More Birds!

Friday, December 26th, 2008

My family knows I love birds of all kinds. They also know I don’t need any more live birds!

When in doubt, they always know a gift of a non-live bird will always be a hit with me.

My father is also a ceaseless thrift store peruser and he finds fantastic things for just a few dollars.

For instance, this darling sapsucker knocker is handmade and from a thrift store. If you pull the rope underneath the “tree,” the bird taps against a hidden nail head, creating a realistic knocking sound. The tip of the bird’s beak is reinforced with a nail head also, so the wooden beak will not wear down. Clever!

From my sister I received this handpainted tiny accordion book filled with cranes – the type that overwinter in New Mexico. You see these bluish-gray cranes everywhere in empty country fields and at the wildlife refuge.,/span>

Also from my father via the Goodwill, I received this beautiful handmade Native American flute in the key of G. I found out, via a search on the internet, that it is a “High Spirits” flute made by Odell Borg and I believe is called a Redtail Hawk flute. Again, another bird! But I never get enough of wild birds, and so I am very pleased with these new additions to my home.

Reduced Art Prices

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

It’s not too late, nor is it too early, to plan for gift-giving for this coming holiday season. To make it a bit easier on your wallets during these harder financial times, I’ve reduced prices on all originals and giclee prints on my website.

Why buy art?

1. The gift of original art (or prints of original art) is a very personal one. To choose a work for a specific friend or loved one – or for yourself – is one of the most meaningful gifts one can give and shows how much you think of the recipient.

2. You support the arts. There are millions of artists who depend on buyers to continue this vital cultural enrichment that began in the caves. Artists paint because they love their subjects and want to capture something of the essence that sparked their passion to create.

Art is love on paper, canvas, metal, stone – you name it. Help us to keep the arts alive!

3. You help support environmental and conservation causes, as I donate a percentage of each sale of originals and prints to one of several organizations.

4. It’ll make you feel really good.

Good enough reasons? Let me hear from you!

And remember, shipping is FREE anywhere in the world for all originals and prints. (Greeting card shipping charges are also free anywhere, with a minimum purchase of $20 or more.)

Thank you, readers!

The Cave Painters

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I just finished reading a fascinating book entitled The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis.

It’s utterly astounding to think that ancient paleolithic humans created such art of exquisite beauty and movement. I find it amazing that much of this art seems so fresh and alive – even modern.

It’s also interesting that these artists – as long as 30,000 years ago – used principles of perspective that more modern humans didn’t rediscover until the Middle Ages. Apparently this period of cave painting lasted for about 20,000 years.

These caves are dotted throughout France and Spain. Most of the more famous ones, such as the caves of Lascaux, are closed to the public in order to preserve the paintings for as long as possible.

Since reading this book about the history of the French caves, I’ve seen a larger photo book by Norbert Aujoulat that highlights Lascaux and its art – a beautiful book.

After the second World War, when Picasso saw some of these ancient cave paintings, he was awed and humbled. He said: “We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years.”

You know, I think he’s right.

Egg Art

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Although I was prolific in artistic endeavors during in my grammar and high school years, not much of it survives. Being the daughter of a Marine meant that we moved every 2-3 years. When my father retired, a box containing all my most cherished treasures and art that I especially liked was lost on our last military-paid move.

Except for my egg art. These I made each Christmas to give to family and friends. I’d blow out the egg through a needle hole. That hole would be used to secure embroidery thread for hanging the egg on a Christmas tree.

This egg is one my mother gave back to me some years ago. It depicts elements of my life in a semi-rural area where we lived after my father’s retirement. In the foreground is Ralph, our Siamese cat. And Mollie, my Alpine goat. In the far distance, the black blob under the willow tree is Casey our lab. I still don’t know how I managed to get my fingers inside the egg to paste in the foreground elements. I was a glutton for punishment!,/span>

Beauty Everywhere

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

There are days when it’s hard to see beauty, especially when a media account talks of yet another extinction, another environmental disaster, or some similar depressing bit of news. Nevertheless, nature is still present – thank goodness! – still showing herself in so many ways.

I’ve discovered that the more I paint, the more I see. It’s as if the process of trying to capture three dimensions onto paper, forces my senses to become more aware of textures, fractal-like patterns, shapes, how different parts fit together to become a whole. Just looking at how sunshine through a leaf or flower petal reveals the intricacies of veins and patterns in such delicate tissue can be an amazing experience of discovery.

When I try to convey a tiny fraction of this complexity through my art, I begin to dimly understand what an immense creative force is behind everything in the natural world. It quite amazes and humbles me.

I can really get excited about the smallest things.

I paint using primarily Winsor Newton watercolors with a few Daniel Smith and Holbein colors added for interest and variety. Although I have wanted to use oils, I cannot – even the water-soluble variety – as I’m too chemically sensitive to the additives and chemicals in oils and acrylics. Fortunately, I happen to love watercolor for many reasons.

Meantime, I hope you see some lovely gifts of nature wherever you are today.