Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Art in the Garden

"I walk the world in wonder." Oscar Wilde

  Working on the finishing touches of the pieces from this months plein air event. Framed most of them, might get the last one done but depends on if I get back to the Botanical Gardens before Friday. I started a small mountain scene with the moon still up and the cactus and palo verde coming down the side. Still struggle with the landscape feel of the piece. My focus becomes more on the rocks. We shall see where this one goes.

The show at the Desert Botanical Gardens will be hung this Friday and will be on view through Sunday evening. It is going to be a hot weekend, breaking into the high 90's. The question most people have this time of year is when will they see the first of the 100 degree days? And then it is usually followed by but it's a dry heat.

I would like to paint more at the gardens but would need to be there early morning before the heat comes in for the day. Being in the desert it cools down at night and slowly builds so that the hottest part of the day is around 4:00 pm. The mountain scene is very little shade. Most of the pieces I did this past month I was able to find little spots in the shade. I did a series of agave studies. The agave best known for the production of tequila can vary in color and size. I still need to research the different names of each of these species. I know one is the Century Agave. They have wonderful turns but they have spikes along each section. In most of the plants in the S/W those spikes are a leaf that has adapted over time to the heat conditions. I am not sure if that is true of the agave or not. The large sections that I would call leaves are thick and hard, there is no give to them. They flow as if they are soft but they have a weight and solidness to them.

I enjoy working in a series, it gives me time to see things I might have missed on the first work. I become more award of the colors and patterns in the piece. I sometimes just come back to the same place over and over again. More on that tomorrow...
Agave 3 of 3 studies

Agave 1 of 3 studies
Century Agave 2 of 3 studies

Thursday, March 24, 2011


"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain - Maya Angelou

  The word "change" has been coming up a lot this week. I tend to pay attention when I see the same word, number or symbol appear over and over again. Yesterday, I was at the AZ Arts Alliance Gallery and at the sale counter there is a small book that was for gallery use. It is called, "Who Move My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

It is in 3 sections a introduction, a story and discussion. I am at the story part, a story of mice in a maze finding their cheese. It is about change and how we deal with change. There is always change in our life, some we see as good, some we see as bad but we can not stop change and the biggest challenge is learning to deal with it and make it work for you.

Now what does this have to do with art? Have you ever had a piece you are working on and it just is not going the direction you thought it would go? What do you do with it? At times I have put works away sometimes for up to a year. Pull them back out and with fresh eyes see that maybe it was not as bad as I had thought and just finish the piece in a short time. Or keep pushing the piece to see where it will go. If all else fails I can shred the piece up and re-pulp it into another piece of paper. If you work on canvas cotton or linen you could maybe make paper out of it too. I have made paper from blue jeans, all cotton so you never know where that change may take you.

I recently pushed through a piece I started at the Botanical Gardens. I was using watercolor paper that was coffee stained. Thought this could make a nice graphite drawing. I used HB pencil to start too dark, so went to H still too dark. Why wasn't this working??? Took it home took the eraser to it and lighted it up. Still could not make it work, pulled out the pastels and just worked the whole thing over in color. It needed color. The coffee stain part is not really visible except for some odd shading areas but at least it has pulled it together.

Change, I had to let go of one idea and move on to another. Just like in life, sometimes I need to remember to let go of something and focus on what is new and in front of me. Work on the new possibilities that are being presented to me and opening that door. Now to take all my courage and go out that door to see what new adventures are waiting for me and my art.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Respect: a little thing that can do so much. Respect of nature, keeping our national parks safe and around for many years so others may continue to enjoy them. I just re-read a couple of articles in National Parks Magazine and wanted to pass on some of the links that they offered.

There are app's for everything. National Parks Conservations Association (NPCA) partnered with to create an app called "National Parks Field Guides" which can be used for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with others to come. This app will give you information when you are in national parks on the plants, birdsongs, or animals that are in that park.

For those of us with less techno info you can also check out or just check for general wildlife information.

There is also a site that has a bill to help connect children with the natural world, getting back outside.

Theodore Roosevelt, established 5 national parks. He is part of The Conservation Hall of Fame in VA. Check for more information on programs and naturalists that have inspired parks and preserves.
Marilu drawing the bears at Brooks River Falls, Katmai, Alaska

Linda at Cathedral National Park, Sedona, AZ by large Cottonwood

Acadia National Park

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rainy Days

It is not April yet but the showers are here early or late. Usually there is more rain in Jan. & Feb. in AZ which brings the wildflowers. This year not as much rain and not as many wildflowers but lots of things still bloom at this time of year. Fruit trees have new flowers on them. Saw a grapefruit tree yesterday and they are so sweet the air is filled with the smell from the small white flower.

Another plant that bloomed earlier then I remember from last year is the Texas Mountain Laurel. It has a large cluster of purple flowers. Not at all like the wild mountain laurel that grows on the east coast.

wild mountain laurel with hummingbird pastel by linda hp

Texas Mountain Laurel

Now to the rainy day. Did not feel like going out in the rain so it became my PR day. The business end of art. Posting listings on as many sites as I can find for the shows that are coming up later this spring. Finding that so many things link together it makes it interesting trying to remember what you put where and how they all connect together. I have always believed that everything is connect and we need to take care of the earth for her to take care of us. Technology seems to be reinforcing that concept. Let us know if one of our connects brought you to the Mountain Laurel Art Show this year. It will be held May 20, 21, & 22nd. Check the link below this post to find out more about this show.

Mountain Laurel Art Show on The Arts Map

Mountain Laurel Art Show on The Arts Map

Saturday, March 19, 2011


"There is no season such delight can bring as summer, autumn, winter and the spring." William Browne

  Winters are mild in AZ but there is still the coming of spring. The wildflowers bloom, the butterflies and hummingbirds are everywhere. New nests are being built.

Marilu sent me the new link to the eagle cam. The National Conservation Training Center in Sheperdstown, WV has a pair of eagles that have been sharing their life with us for a number of years. We have watched as they have had babies and admire their parenting. If you have never seen a eagles nest you need to put it on your list of to do's.

Here is the link to take a look, there is a new baby.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Looking and seeing

"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire." Ralph Waldo Emerson

  There are times when you look but can not see and your hand wants to draw what it thinks it sees. Some times we let our brain get in the way of our art. Marilu & I were e-mailing about getting started on new projects. We both have done this: if you wear glasses take them off and look at what ever you are planning to draw/paint. It is most likely out of focus, at least it is for me and for Marilu. By doing this you need to look at the big shapes. This works great for plein air painting. Once you get the big shapes in you can see the shadows without worrying about all the details. Block the shadows in, once that is done put those glasses back on and see what you have done. If you have great vision you can close those eyes a bit and put on some sun glasses to bring out contrast.

These are just ways of helping you look at things differently, to let yourself create with your heart, your hand and let your brain take in the beauty around you. I like to think of it as a kind of meditation. If I just allow myself to look at what I see and not worry about the rest of the world my soul is the better for it and maybe my art.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tonto National Forest

" The words "peace" and "tranquillity" are worth a thousand pieces of gold. " Chinese Proverb 

 Some places are worth going back to over and over again. This past weekend I went back to the Tonto National Forest. The Lower Salt River, Salt River and lakes connect along this mountainous range. There is something about this area that I found meditative. In the early morning you can see bald eagles that nest along the river. Turkey vultures live in this same area. Red Shoulder Hawks, Harris Hawks,  sit in the tops of trees along with hummingbirds an interesting contrast. You can easily hike down to the river but the view from the ridge is just as beautiful.

I did two small pastels  of the rock formations. I struggle with large expansive landscapes. I have found that I can focus in on rock forms treating them in a abstract style. Toning the paper with warm and cool colors, working in a line drawing, blocking in the shadows before they change and then adding some details. It is a departure of the work I do drawing animals defining each feather or stroke of fur.

Working en plein air is my way of finding peace and tranquillity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


"Have patience. Everything is difficult before it is easy." Saadi

 Some days are easier then others. Some days my hand will create works that I look back at and wonder how did I do that? Even in the same day things can go from looking good to what happened? That was my Saturday. I was plein air painting at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Started with a pastel of a Century Agave which looks pretty good. The light had changed, I decided to take a break and start something new. Tried a little pencil sketch on coffee stained paper. For some reasons I could not get into the flow. It was a small grouping of cactus usually I draw too light but for some reason it just looked too dark to me. Working out in the bright sun you will work with more intense colors and push the shadows. When you come inside you realize that it is too bright, intense or dark. My problem was the opposite, I switched to a "H" pencil and still could not get the gradation I wanted. Once this happens it is best to put it down, leave it along and come back to it another day. Packed up my equipment and headed over to the Butterfly House. A nice peaceful way to end the day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seeing with fresh eyes...

"Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned." Mark Twain

This week I have been reminded of things I have learned and have tucked back in memory. It is a good thing for a teacher, artist to take a workshop and once again become the student. I gained much from this week of plein air painting with the group from the AZ Pastel Artists Association. I am working with color in a better relationship, thinking of cool and warm combinations. Dealing with how I do landscapes, viewing them closer then most people think of landscape or plein air painting. Seeing the details but also letting them go, playing with the quality of line work allowing the line to sometimes just go where it may. Playing with using under painting. Richard Mckinley demonstrated the use of watercolor in under painting for pastels. But talked of using oil paints, using water, alcohol to spray into the paint for effects. I choose to use pastels as my under painting, pushing the idea of blending warm and cool colors together and compliments of what would be the finished work.

Thursday we spent the day painting at the Tonto National Forest, wonderful day. Finished up the workshop Friday. Saturday started the month long plein air event at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Each Saturday in March the artists from the Scottsdale Artists League work in the gardens from 9 am till around 4 pm. Will post more on this tomorrow.

Spring in AZ great place to work! Here are a couple of Richard McKinley's under paintings and finished works in pastel.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Notan - this word has come up a lot this week. In the pastel workshop I am taking and last night a different artist talked about Notan in his painting. This is a Japanese word that translated means "Visual Poetry". In more artistic discussion it talks about the relationships of light to dark. Using the light to make something dark and vise versa. Notan is not about accuracy, it is looking at the whole picture and what I try to do is look with innocence. Look at what it is you are drawing or painting don't allow your head to do the drawing. Let your eyes and  your hand do the work. Draw what is there but also make it your own. You have the choice to leave things out. Look at the space around the object in front of you.

Day 3 of workshop today heading to Lost Dog Trail. I have hiked there before, we will be in the field all day. More on Tricks & Techniques tomorrow or tonight! I will leave you with a bit of visual poetry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breaking Rules

"You have to know the rules in order to break the rules" not sure who said this or if it even matters but this line has been coming up for the last couple of weeks. I am taking a plein air pastel workshop this week with Richard McKinley here in Scottsdale, AZ. Full day yesterday with lots of refreshers, things that we knew but just tuck back in our memories. Reminders on color, value, composition and how the eye sees these things. Richard discussed simultaneous contrast, how a color can look cooler or warmer, darker or lighter depending on what it is next too. This not only applies to art but to everyday art, your house walls, the cloths you wear anything really. It was a morning filled with learning the rules.

The afternoon was spent watching a demo en plein air and then working ourselves. Richard reminded us of doing a 4 value study, the white/light of the paper is one value, then 3 shades of gray. I get away from doing this and need to include it in my daily practice. Once the composition and values were established, Richard began a color demo. He has a lot of passion when he speaks of art and is working. Watching him work I felt I could see where some of the rules were being bent if not broken. I watched as he introduced color and texture to his work. A touch of high contrast green here and there, which I did not see but it worked in the piece. One of the other things Richard focused on was serendipity, that sometimes you just need the work take you where it wants to go. You just go with your feelings and instincts about the piece. Sometimes that is where the rules get broken.

Guess we will see what rules we can break today.
Check out Richards blog in the Pastel Journal.

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