Friday, May 31, 2013

By The Light of the Moon

Last night, Rick & I went to the Desert Botanical Gardens for the flashlight tour. It is self guided but there are lots of docents along the way with information on what you will see.

The sun was just going down, and before we really even got into the garden we saw a pretty long king snake. They are in the class of good snakes. Of course this morning on my way out I saw a rattle snake in the middle of the road, they kind of fall into that class of scary snake. Back at the garden we saw two other king snakes, one by a little water fall area and the other a docent was holding.

We saw and heard frogs, had up close with a barn owl and gopher tortoise. Saw some scorpions and big hairy spiders, they were not running around but in fish tanks for people to see and ask questions. There were also mom, dad & baby quail, bunny rabbits, birds and bats.

 A nice way to spend the evening.

Gopher or Desert Tortoise 

Barn Owl

King Snake

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Somethings in the air...

The mourning doves are still in spring season, flapping their wings and spreading tail-feathers. The peach faced love birds are singing. There seems to be an increase in bird activity and new visitors to the yard. Finches, sparrows, mocking birds, so many others that I need to pull my bird book out to see who they are and where they are coming from. Something is in the air with all these songs. Birds are finishing up with migration, moving from their winter homes to their summer homes.  

I sometimes feel like I am an accidental birder. I don't have a list of birds I want to see but am always fascinated  with those I see in my yard or when traveling. I do enjoy drawing the feathers, but it can be hard to get the faces just right. Cardinals often look ticked off and eagles can look intense. My job is to soften that look a little but still keep the information realistic. Practice makes perfect, tomorrow will be my day to practice, practice, practice...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


There are times when you have the need to do an image over and over again. Not necessarily doing the same painting/drawing but using that image and doing a serious of works that are similar. Sometimes with a little luck it is because you sold the first piece too quickly. You did not have enough time to live with it but that is a good thing because it makes you work. Other times it may be that you had a great photo opportunity where you got a bird sitting, taking off and in flight. Maybe, turning his head back and forth as if posing for you.

I have even done this one image of trees in the fall, the sky was such an intense blue the color of the leaves just popped - I love this picture and have done at least 3 versions. And leaves, well, I collect leaves. It falls in that category with taking pictures of trees. I don't need any more but that doesn't stop me from picking one up that is just so beautiful I have to press it between pages of phone books that never get used for anything else.

My latest serious is the great horned owl. I did a little 5x7 and it sold immediately. On a recent flight I started a 6x6 from the same photo, I finished it last week. Going to seal some works this week, I have been adding handmade paper to the edges  and it too will be ready to show or sell!

What's next? Started a elephant on coffee stained paper, have this black swam image that keeps haunting me, really need to start it but in my mind it is a bigger piece...maybe 12x16 or larger, still thinking larger. We shall see what the week brings!

6x6 charcoal & pastel #2

5x7 charcoal & pastel #1

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Conversartion with a Hummingbird

I have only had this conversation one other time, back in Frederick with my hummingbirds. This morning as I sit outside with my cats and morning coffee a hummingbird comes and lands on the slipper plant. He often does this so I did not think too much about it but today he began to speak, making little beep - click type noises, their song, not so much the prettiest of bird songs but it is what they do and I am honored to have them share.

Now if he would only sit on that slipper plant long enough for me to get my camera and take a good photo...I am learning more tricks with my new camera. I have a 3-D setting which from what I can determine isolates an object as it moves. Will practice to see what I get and how well it works.

Until then will share past hummingbird pictures & artwork.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Making Art My Way or Breaking The Rules

The last couple of years life has been in transition and so to my art. I try to remember what one of my professor's from Maryland Institute told me, create what makes you happy and your market will find you.  I took his advise focusing in on nature and wildlife. I like to draw, I like dry mediums, I love working on and with paper. So much so, that I started making my own paper. It is a mild and safe addiction.

Along this path, I forget sometimes to follow my heart and try to make others happy. I deviate from what I know in my heart I should be doing...making art my way. I went to school to learn the rules, but, once you learn them, take them and make them your own.

I still wonder how my charcoal with some pastel color are viewed: is this truly a pastel? Experimenting this past year with sealing pastels has been a challenge. Some good results have come from this project and I will continue to see where it takes me. But, all in all, I have been doing more work lately in the style that is truly me, working on paper that is not used my many pastel artists, toning the paper, using my kneaded eraser to draw with and then using charcoal pencils to do the drawing and details. I like this look, I like the way it feels as I am creating the work and I love the surprise at the end when I add the final white highlights that brings it all together.

Sometimes I think I am breaking rules but really just bending them a little. I work in a traditional old school style with a little twist here and there. Here are a few of my favorite pieces using a reductive technique, on Rives BFK paper, charcoal & pastel.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's Going On...

Lots and lots of things happening this spring, rolling through the summer and into the fall. It will be a busy year. Marilu has an opening tonight...

I will be attending the International Association of Pastel Societies conference this year in Albuquerque, NM. There is a fairly new Society - Pastel Society of Virginia and I will be representing them at the conference. Along with hanging with some of my fellow pastel artist from AZ and maybe MD too! More to follow on the conference!!

Marilu & I had a chance to meet a couple times recently and we are still working on some join projects together, you may see some finished pieces at the FAV show in October - November. Plus, some preliminary work on a tree project!

Art-o-matic looks to return in September, hoping the dynamic duo can make a nature wildlife space happen again!

New galleries & workshops opportunities coming in October too!

And some amazing travel adventures that we will keep secret just a little longer.

Keep an eye on our blog, web sites, FB to see where we are and what we will be up to next!

New Mexico here I come

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Down On The Farm

While back east I had a great opportunity to see baby eagles. Our friends Eric & Lori have discovered a pair of nesting bald eagles this year at, Country Pleasures Farm, and two babies. The babies are growing fast I imagine they will be flying very soon. They are high in a sycamore tree that runs along a creek. Not easy to get pictures but with more practice maybe next year I will get some better ones.

 The walk back to were the eagles live is filled with wildflowers. On the return walk we saw a great blue heron, too fast to get a good picture. The walk up the road was postcard perfect and the cows lay resting after breakfast.

and I forgot there are grape vines growing...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Remembering Dirty Dancing

Yesterday, Rick & I drove up to the Mountain Lake Lodge. It is one of the locations where the film "Dirty Dancing" took place. They were closed for some time but have re-opened the Lodge, restaurant, cabins, gift shop, gallery & activities barn. They are just off of the Appalachian Trail. The drive up has amazing views, with trees, roots, birds and hiking trails.

I went up to speak with the manager of the gallery and the manager of planned events. I dropped off several framed pieces, some matted works, hand made books and paper pieces. Looks like the first couple weekends in October I will be doing some demonstrations and workshops. October & November are shaping up to be very busy. Working up at the Mountain Lake Lodge will be spectacular with the trees changing colors.

Will keep you posted on events as they start happening or you can check out their web site:

Main Lodge at Mountain Lake

Do you know who's cabin this was in the movie?

Activities Barn

Gallery & Gift Shop

Cool Tree!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Magic Birds

Thought I would share these magical birds, starlings. The word of the week is murmuration, it is what a large group of starlings get together and dance in the sky. They are related to mockingbirds, while crows & ravens are related to each other. Marilu had ask me if I had ever heard of a murmuration? Then should me a youtube video, wow, nature is so beautiful.

Here are a couple of links to see this amazing show and to learn a little more about starlings.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Day to One's Self

Sitting in the early morn listening to the tic tock of the clock, looking out over the meadow with my cup of java. 
A gentle way to start Mother's Day - Sunday. Kind of, I have already been out and about, saw several bright red cardinals against the green leaves of trees and bushes. Red tailed hawk flying over head and quickly spotted the nesting eagle. Hoping later today to get a better look at the eagles. 
Enjoy your Sunday, honor thy Mother each in your own way.

Friday, May 10, 2013

10,000 Feet

What to do when you are flying all day? Read? Watch out the window? Well, that will take some time but I go for a window seat and bring some small project. If I am lucky no one will be in the middle seat. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Flow

Sometimes you get into the flow, you work on something that just seems to go in the direction you want it to go and you lose track of time. This is the flow, those moments when time and space disappear.

As I was working on the close up of the mountain lion I was able to have some of those moments. I worked in a reductive technique, using my kneaded eraser as a drawing tool. Working with Rives BFK paper, I toned it with burnt sienna & burnt umber, did a light charcoal sketch to get my propositions correct. Then used the eraser to start pulling out some of the light areas. I decided I would make this a limited palette, using only black & white charcoal to do the main drawing. Then added a touch of color for the eye. I think it is done, will look at it later today and as usual maybe adjust a dark area here & there but all that is left is name, sealing it and framing.
mountain lion soft pastel, charcoal on rives BFK paper

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Who Is Sorry Now - scams & spams

Lately I have been receiving a lot of phishing e-mails,spams, and scams, from art collectors, people wanting art for their new apartment in some far away country, or galleries that if they accept you include a large fee.

I don't know how I get on these lists but many people in the same organizations as myself have gotten these same scam/spam e-mails at pretty much the same time.

It is no longer buyer beware but artist beware. There are ways to check out scams. As an artist we often get unknown emails from galleries, people that are truly interested in our work. But, if you are not sure it is real, try a couple simple things:
When in doubt - just delete.
Move your curser over the e-mailer's address, you may get something different, if so, I tend to delete.
You can do a google search - type in the persons name if nothing comes up add art scam to the name search. I have found more times then not it will come up with an article on the art scam.
Check with your fellow artists, see if they are getting the same scam. Put it out there on the social media sites let your friends pass the word around.
Never accept a check for more then the value you listed, never give out person information, like your bank or your credit card company. Some scams will tell  you they want your bank info to do a direct deposit.

To get really serious go to some of these web sites for more help.    This site has general information lots of links              This is the Internet Fraud Complaint Center              This is the Federal Trade Commission they offer an additional link where                                                 you can forward spam for them to investigate.
Forward spam to:      This has information on avoiding spam and malware.

Pass the word to your artist friends, protect yourself and your art.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Follow up on tips & tricks, questions have come up on how I start my pastels. I work in a traditional method. Toning white Rives BFK cotton rag paper with the side of pastels or pastel dust. Once there is a even surface I use a pastel or charcoal pencil to block in my drawing. The magic starts to happen with the kneaded eraser. I use it like a drawing tool, I start to pull the light areas out, this creates the shape of the image. From there I use pastels to block in additional color and pastel pencils for the details.

The last few days I have been working on a close up of a mountain lions head and am using a limited palette. The background has burnt umber and burnt sienna. Black & white charcoal pencils are being use for the details and I may add some color for the eyes. Hoping to have it done by Wednesday at the latest. Till then here is a step by step of a great horned owl "Thinking" using a reductive process.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Extra - Extra

As I am planning for upcoming travel, conferences, show, and meetings I realized I have not come back to the technical information on sealing pastels. Today is the last meeting till fall for the AZ Pastel Artists Association. I gave a talk last month on protecting pastels & framing without glass.

I am not sure if I can insert a Power Point in this blog but will see what happens. But, if it doesn't work go to my web site, click the link below. Click on How To - Seal Pastels - then click on the PDF power point file. This will give you detailed information on how I am sealing pastels.

A quick outline for sealing: 4X4X4plus Method

Using Kryon Sprays: Very lightly spray the finished work with Workable Fixative. Spray once do not double layer. This melts the dry pigment causing it to darken and lose the whites. Repeat this for a total of 4 times. Dry time in-between sprays about 15 minutes.
Next - UV Protective Spray - spray 4 times lightly, allow drying time between sprays, do not over spray.
At this point you can still go into the work and do adjustments if needed, bring up the lights or details.
Final spray using Matte Spray, repeat the 4 spray process and then check with a light touch. If pastel comes off on your finger continue to spray with the Matte Spray. Depending on the type of paper, the softness of the pastel, and dark pastels it can take additional sprays from 2 more to 6 more.

Recommendation: do a test piece before trying this on a finished work. If you want to try this and have questions please e-mail or comment on this

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cleared For Landing

I think the Prairie Falcon is done. I will look at him again today and make a few adjustments here and there but for the most part he is done. I never thought of myself as a bird artist yet I do so enjoy drawing them. The details in the feathers, looking closely at the repetition in patterns. Nature amazes me, the balance, the mathematics, light, color and so much more.

The Falcon was a photo that I caught and my friend Sarah got a similar picture while she was here for a visit. We went to the AZ-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. They do a Free Flight during the winter and again in the fall. They don't fly the birds in the heat of the summer, other then allowing them to go off and fly on their own. People often ask why the birds just don't fly away. The answer is simple, food source, they know where the food comes from, just like the birds that come to the feeder. When my hummingbirds are out of sugar water, they let me know, hovering around the windows that they see me at, birds are smart hunters.

The Prairie Falcon is 14-18" in length, weights between 15 - 39 oz., and it's wing span is 35-45". If you want to check out the show sometime or just visit the AZ-Sonora Desert Museum check out their web site:

"Cleared For Landing" soft pastel on Rives BFK paper

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Trees

May Pole - May Trees - May Day...

I did a quick search on May Day, to see what interesting things I could find.

May Day goes back to the Druids, they celebrated with fire. The Romans worshipped Flora, the goddess of flowers. The Middle Ages brought us the May Pole - May Tree. France, the May Tree became "Tree of Liberty". English & Italians cut down trees, removed lower branches, carried them back to town and decorated the trees with violets & ribbons.

There is even a Maypole Song - Song by Mediaeval Baebes - Summerisle  You may have to type in Mediaeval Baebes - Maypole song.

But, the long of this is I am taking May Day as a celebration of Trees, ancient trees, thought of as representing the gods, a symbol of great vitality and fertility of nature. In honor of trees - May Day!

Quiver Tree from South Africa

Blacksburg, VA

Portland, OR

Frederick, MD

Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, MD

What's That Sound???

You know you are in Wyoming when you wake to the sound of horses. With limited wi-fi service it has been a lot harder to get blogs written a...