Friday, February 28, 2014


This morning, there are clouds in the sky, which makes for an amazing sunrise. The temperatures in Arizona have been above normal this winter and the lack of rain is frightening. The clouds started coming in from the west coast, a storm is coming, rain, it should start raining this evening and throughout the day on Saturday. It is way overdue. Without the winter rains the wildflowers limit their blooms, many of the cacti will have fewer flowers. The trees are greening up and succulents have already been in flower.

The next two days will be good days to make art. Today I will continue working in my studio, currently working on a cheetah in oils. It is an image I did in pastel and really loved the shot, so I am doing a similar one. I have several other backgrounds done and got the shadows on a little fox.

Tomorrow I am taking a one day workshop. I will be working with pastels on suede/velour paper. I plan to take pictures at the workshop and will write a little something about it for Sunday before heading to the AZ Pastel Artists Association general meeting. It will be a busy artsy weekend.

Here is the picture of the great horned owl that got a little re-working. He was started in the 30-30 but wanted to just add a bit more white, color and dark to bring him together.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is It Done Yet?

This month I have been going back to some works that have not been framed yet. When something does not get framed quickly it is usually because there is something about it that just does not feel like it is done yet. There are 3 pieces I worked on this week, two I took pictures of before the sun went down. I did a pastel some time ago of two ravens on handmade paper. The paper was determine to not take the black pastels or charcoal pencils. I went back to the art supply store a few times to get darker charcoal and charcoal pencils.

Pencils, charcoals come in degrees of hardness, which translates to darkness, kind of...a hard pencil, charcoal pencil or charcoal will generally give a lighter line, H - HB - H1, H2, etc. where darker softer pencils...B's are darker but with a light touch can be light enough. Well, that was confusing, but I went and got darker B's, softer charcoals to rework the Ravens. On the opposite end I had done one of the mountain lions from the Sonoran Living Desert Museum. His face was in the light as he was coming out of his cave. In the pastel it seemed to dark, so slight adjustment and it felt better to me.

The great horned owl from the 30-30 challenge called to me for more detail. My downfall, I do love the feathers. That was my last piece of the day, will try to remember and post him tomorrow. But, he just needed to have a bit more lights and dark's. Some bright white and a little line work. I will look at him again today and since the wind seems to be low hope to get some good photographs.

Later, back to the oils, I have several that have either backgrounds or dark's block in ready for details, there is that word again. But, with the oils I have loosen up some and the details are not as tight as the pastels. We shall see what develops.
"Awakening" pastel on paper

"Whose Got Who" pastel on handmade paper

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Too Many

I started out this morning thinking I would write a blog on Yellowstone - Happy 142nd Birthday Yellowstone!! But, as I was looking for pictures, I got side tracked as I usually do with too many pictures. I have two external hard drives to back up my photos. I keep them in folders with dates and titles. I can generally find what I am looking for fairly quickly but I get pulled in by the memories.

We enjoy travel, especially when we are traveling with friends to new places. We have had some amazing and interesting experiences. I love all the reference materials I have, and I know that if I never take another picture, I would have enough information to create new art until I paint no more...but we all know that ain't gonna happen.

I did find a few pictures of Yellowstone to include in today's blog. I also have a couple more pictures I printed out for painting references, a few zebra, mountain lion, and leopard cub. There would have been more but I ran out of ink. So, I will continue to deal with one - two many pictures!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Here To There And Back Again

This past weekend I did a little run away or run to, depends on how you look at it, I ran away from the warm sunshine of AZ but I took it with me to the east coast. On the long day of travel to get back to AZ I did some reading, research, drawing and planning.

There are lots of shows coming up in which I still need to submit the images and forms. I signed up for a show at the AZ Arts Alliance Gallery for March & April. Brought back works for spring shows on the east coast, plus need to ship a couple more pieces for a show on New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, that Jeanean Martin is putting together at the Griffin Art Center in April. Ordering supplies for pastel workshop at Common Ground on the Hill in July. Will need to get new paintings done for solo show at VA Tech Alumni Gallery that goes up in June. Working on trying to have a closing reception for that show at the end of August or sometime in September. Still trying to get some workshops going and a artists get together once a month.

This weekend I am treating myself to a workshop. I am taking a workshop focusing on animals but will be working on a suede type pastel paper. I have worked on this paper years ago but not enough to say one way or the other that I did or did not like it, so we shall see how it all comes about.  Every other year or so I sign up for a work shop, it is a good way to remind yourself of the basics. To help change any bad habits that may have incorporated into your routine. Plus, I always find I learn something new, a technique, material, gallery, place to go and paint. It is good to keep learning, keeps the mind & the heart open to new ideas.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pachyderm In The Room

Pachyderm or pachiderm (Pachydermata) - is not just an elephant, this grouping includes, rhinos, hippos, zebra, horses and many more. But, for today we will focus on the elephant in the room. The saying is directed at "an obvious truth that is ignored or otherwise unaddressed", according to Wikipedia. But, for me the pachyderm in the room is the one in my studio. I have been going back over the photos from the Africa trips. The elephants keep calling to me, I started with some sketches, moved to oil paintings, which were small. I still feel the pull to go bigger and bigger. I finished one that is 12x16 and did one small long format about 10 inches long. This long format is one I want to explore. I have picked up a couple different style long canvases, they are the elephant in the room - they are the otherwise un-addressed.

I am still building up to oil painting big again. Knowing that with the oils it will take me longer periods of time to get the final results seems to stagger me a bit. I leave those big blank canvases sitting out, I see them and know that I need to do something with them. I know I need to have them done by mid-April so they will dry in time to ship them east for shows this summer and fall.

Deep breath, the obvious truth is I need to just jump in and get started on these big guys. I am currently working on African elephants, I have done Asian elephants in the past and may have a couple for a show in the fall. There are something like 18 sub-species of elephants, African & Asian are separate and the Forest or Bush elephant may be more than a sub-species. The African elephant was named by Johann Friedrick Blumenbach, 1797 (Elephas africana). These amazing creators are listed as "keystone species" they have a large effect on the environment, maintaining the structure of an ecological community. It still boggles my mind why ivory is needed anywhere but on the elephant?

Here are the latest of the small elephants, I am excited to see what is coming next...If you would like to read more about elephants and pachyderms check out the link to wiki -

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Yesterday I went North and up. Going to over 4600' elevation. I went to Surprise, AZ to pick up art from the "Animals, Animals, Animals" show. Found out I had received an Honorable Mention for one of my pieces. That was a nice surprise - sorry sometimes those puns just slip in on me.

I than headed up to Dewey-Humboldt, AZ which is near Prescott. As I was driving up Hwy 17 I always notice just after 3000' elevation marker, that the Saguaro cactus disappear. It gets too cold for these amazing tree forms. The Saguaro (carnegiea gigantea) is native to the Sonoran Desert, the blossom is the native wildflower for AZ. It is slow growing, arms do not appear till it is usually 25 plus years old. They can live to over 150 years and grow to 40-60' tall.

Yet, once you get above a certain elevation you don't see them. Junipers, pines, cottonwoods take over where the saguaro leaves off. I was please that I did not run into any snow going closer to Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff there is always a chance of snow this time of year. Dewey-Humboldt was two small towns that came together as one to preserve the land and a way of life. It is close to the big city of Prescott, and the Prescott National Forest, there are 5 lakes in the area, lots of hiking trails, and beautiful rock formations. The town of Dewy-Humboldt has some of the old cowboy exteriors but most of them can only be seen and not gone into. In Prescott the architecture is a lot like Williamsburg, VA style, with gingerbread trim on the houses. Many of the houses were built in the late 1800's early 1900's. The area was established around 1840.

I meet friends for lunch in Prescott and they drove me in and around town, giving me some of the history. A nice way to spend the afternoon. One of the dirt roads we drove down had a line of mailboxes for the houses that must have been hidden somewhere in the woodlands of the National Forest. Looking forward to going back up that way again, taking a little more time to explore the trails and the city.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Light As Air

Light - daylight - flat light - sun light - bright light...trying to take photographs of artwork takes time and the right kind of light. The quality of the air, the overcast sky, a flat light can be a good thing for taking pictures.

Yesterday it was overcast, light clouds covering the sun yet still bright enough and no wind. So, I thought let me re-shoot some of the works I have done lately. While doing the 30-30 challenge many of those photos were taken with my phone. The phone shoots things a little too blue and lighter.

The oil paintings have a shiny surface, the pastels have an even quality. Marilu deals with a whole different surface, the scratchboard. She has to adjust for the rich blacks and the bright whites. The contrast of scratchboards is one of the things that make it so appealing.

I worked with my Nikon and played with my new macro lens. When taking these types of pictures I use manual settings, sometimes I set up the tripod to keep the camera stable. With digital I find that to get the true color of the painting I have to bracket, I shoot what the camera tells me is the correct setting. Then I shoot two brighter and two darker. For the most part I go with a darker shot.

I found that the canvas oil paintings even in a flat light will bounce light. As I pull them up in photoshop I could see little dots of light that are the edge of the weave of the canvas. Okay, maybe I got a little too much detail in that shot.

Today there are no clouds, a light breeze and looks like I may need to wait to do any outside photography for another day. I will use what I have to do computer work, adjusting the size, dpi, labeling and applying to upcoming shows. It is a business morning of art.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Working in winter

Winter working for me, means indoors...for the most part.  This winter has been particularly challenging.  We've had snow, snow, ice and more fact it's snowing lightly right now.   My 'plein aire' work this season has been small hikes with my camera in hopes of finding some subjects.  But most of the time I've photographed the birds on my feeders from the warmth of my kitchen.  Works for me....  I'm blessed with a number of varieties....chickadees, tufted titmice, wrens, juncos, sparrows, winter finches, cardinals, nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, flickers and the odd pileated woodpecker that thinks he can maneuver a feeder.  So I'm assembling a nice collection of bird scratchboards for the spring shows.  And I have plenty more images to work from for our Fine Arts in the Valley show in the Fall.  (follow that site on facebook).

The works that I'm posting here are photographed with my phone....not ideal I know, and I'll do a good job with my good camera when the weather allows.  But for now, excuse the quality of the pictures.  I'll get my photography tips from my daughter, and if you want to see some quality photographs, see her work at  (excuse the proud mom commercial....)
Enjoying the Winter....but longing for Spring.....

Up & Away

February's full moon is called: Snow Moon, Storm Moon, Hunger Moon and/or Full Bony Moon...I was intrigued so went to Farmers Almanac to better understand some of these names. The names came about by Native Americans. The winter's being hard, filled with snow/ice made it harder to hunt and provide food for the family. That explained the snow, storm & hunger moons. Ahhh! the Full Bony Moon, the Cherokee receive create for that name. It came about as they made soup from bone marrow during those lean winter months. The Celts call it a moon of ice. The Chinese refer to it as a budding moon, it hopes for spring.

As much of the east coast, north and northwest are covered in snow with more coming and lots of clouds you may not be able to see the full moon this weekend.

But if you can get out this weekend, the National Parks Service has free admission for Presidents Weekend. The Parks around our nation offer free days throughout the year. Go to their web site and check out all the programs and events. Our Parks offer not only a beautiful walk in nature with wildlife, they save historic styles, preserve our heritage, give us art & cultural activities too.

While I was making paper, I create several with a moon in them. Now I need to go back through some of my pictures, some came from National Parks and see what I can create. Since each full moon has it's own special name I may need to do a small series featuring that special moon. I do love working in series. This week the series has been elephants, more to come on that later.

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's A Mystery

" The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift that's why it is called the present." Alice Morse Earle

Happy Valentines Day - The mystery of history, Valentine's Day, a saint who married young lovers in secret? A man who help people escape Roman prisons? Later to be jailed himself, to fall in love with the jailer's daughter writing her a love letter, signed, "From your Valentine".

A celebration called Lupercalia, fertility festival, dedicated to Faunus the Roman God of agriculture. This also brings us to Romulus & Remus. Later, France & England claimed it to be the beginning of the mating season - for birds.

Written valentines appear around the 1400's, by the 17th & 18th century cards replaced hand written letters. Today we have cards, flowers, chocolates and jewelry, all in the name of hmmm, love, marriage, prison, fertility, agriculture & birds! I see the connection, kind of, but mid-February brings thoughts of spring, a renewed time of life and love.

What does this have to do with art, travel, inspiration - well everything.  Today is a gift - give someone a present, be it as simple as a smile, buy the person behind you a cup of coffee, compliment a stranger or call a friend to say, hey I was thinking of you. Make your valentine's day special to you, it's your present.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I was going to write something about leaves, sketching plein air or painting in the studio. Going through my sketch books and I have many, I realized the blog would be more about the sketch book than the subject matter.

Sketch books are journals, a visual diary, mine covers travel all over the world. I write a lot, take notes as to where we were in that moment in time. I collect business cards, postcards, fliers and make sketches. Sometimes they are a quick sketch to help me remember an idea, the color of something, the texture, or just the emotional feeling. As I went back through them I even found sketches I had made of great masters from museum visits.

When I take or give a workshop I make notes and sketches. One I found of the cottonwood leaf from Desert Botanical Gardens. It was a memory sketch, you study the object for 10 minutes, remove it from your sight and draw from memory for 10 minutes. This was a precursor to a pastel I did later of cottonwood leaves on the ground.

These journals not only serve as memories but I come  back to find quotes that touch me and poetry that I want to remember. Here is one of my favorites.

"Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand.
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!"
Edna St, Vincent Millay

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

For The Love Of Trees

Since we are coming up on Valentine's Day I thought I would work some love into the blog this week. It is no secret that I love trees. Marilu has the same  obsession with trees as I do. We have brought our family and friends into this tree passion. They often see a interesting tree and will take pictures, then send them to us. My husband, Rick, has taken pictures on golf courses for me to see. Sometimes you see trees that you can admire but to translate them into a drawing just won't work or they are only recognizable within a certain part of the country, the world. With that said, it doesn't mean I won't try to draw them. Sometimes even if it is just to understand the texture of the trees bark.

Drawing/painting trees can be a challenge. Are you drawing winter trees without leaves, pines trees with snow, trees that have spikes along with leaves or dead trees, that have a mystery all their own?When I am working in plein air doing a sketch of a tree I often will take my glasses off so that I don't see the details first. I want to look at the general shape of the tree. How do the arms line up, some trees have an alternating pattern. Other trees the branches come out equally on either side. Looking at the trunk first to get the direction it is growing, trees are not straight up and down. There are some pines that are pretty straight but there are always little twists and turns. These are the characteristics that make the tree interesting to look at and to draw. Does the tree reach up with it's branches or do they bend over as if they are trying to touch the ground? I love old trees, they have so much color within the layers of the bark. Trees are not brown, look closely, walk up close and see the greens, grays, oranges that are within the bark. When painting allow those colors to be part of the tree, the under-painting or the accent color.

For the love of trees, I will go back to the woods, hike the national parks, walk down my street and sometimes just observe from afar. Tomorrow, maybe we'll talk about the leaves.

pastel on canson paper, east coast trees

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Back In The Saddle

My drawing table had been out of order the last week. It held the pulp containers to make paper. Now that it is all dried, pack up and the last of it will be put away today it is time to get back up on that horse.

I must admit that I liked the pressure of painting a picture a day. I need goals, I need that little extra inspiration. But, I am not going to continue trying to do a picture a day all the time. Now that the paper making is done I will start using some of those papers to create some new images. Lots of shows on the horizon that will require new work.

I have been keeping a side journal, I will try to make a commitment to as least do a little sketch a day, it may be as simple as a doodle in that hand written journal. The oil paints are calling me and I am working out the fine details of a pastel piece.

Mount up cowboys & cowgirls, it's time to get back in the saddle, get some work done!    Check out my web site for new images that have been added recently plus the page that hosts the 30-30 paintings.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Walk About

This week I have gotten my Art Walking in, last night meet with friends Ann & Rita for Scottsdale's Thursday Art Walk. Earlier in the week I went to Art Expo with my friend, Karen. This is the high season for the arts in AZ, every weekend there is a new art show somewhere. The big tent shows are up, one of which is the Art Expo, located at Jomax & Scottsdale Roads. The show run from January 16th to March 30th, 10-6 each day. The cost is $10.00 for season pass and only $8.00 for military or seniors. You can go as often as you like. There are around 100 artists showing their work, plus they are working on new pieces during the show. The spaces are set up as if you are visiting the artist in their studio. This works well for some of the artists takes a little more creative process for others.

When you go you will see many oil painters, some dry mediums: pencil-pastel-charcoal, sculptures in progress, glass works, jewelry, gourd sculptures, metal works, pottery, photography and mixed mediums. There are works of wildlife, landscape, abstract, and figurative. I don't know how anyone could go and not find something that they liked. If you find yourself in AZ, the Art Expo should be on your short list of things to see, I would be happy to go with you!   Check the link to see some of the art on display and special event dates.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Right Before My Eyes

I love the skies in Arizona, watching the sun rise and set reflecting light on the mountains. The colors seem to change right before my eyes. I know I say I am not a landscape painter and I kind of avoid trying to paint sunsets because I can not capture them as well as Mother Nature.

I may have to work on a few views of those mountains. They are light magic, changing colors from white mountains with blue-violet skies to glowing rusty reds with hits of yellow rising from behind.

Into the studio today, and the next few days...we shall see what comes from this inspiration.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kind Of A Compliment

I have been having a fair number of people, "tagging", themselves with my images on Face Book lately. Not just my art work but photographs from places I travel. I guess this is kind of a compliment that they like my work, my images. It does feel a bit odd to see one of my photographs end up as the cover photo on someone else's page. To me it indicates they took that picture or ask permission to use that picture. Face Book did send me a message that said, so-n-so ask to tag your picture, but when I clicked on that person they already had my picture posted. So, where does the asking come in to use my image? They are not within my "friends", maybe they are in a group I belong to? I have sent these people messages asking where they took the image from and what they plan to do with my work? Especially if it is my art work.

Many artist get scam emails, request for your work via some far away company. For all I know my images may be selling like sushi over seas and I don't see any benefit from those "sales".

This year has begun with a lot more of these types of things. One of the reasons I got my act back together and started posting my art work with the copyright logo again. Guess I may need to start doing that to my travel photos too. Nice to be "liked" but not so sure about being "tagged" - you're it!

To find out more about copyright symbols and information here is a link to a web site that is very helpful.

This symbol is from the copyright authority web site listed above

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beat to a Pulp

Not talking about any sports event here, still talking, making paper. The last four days I was in the studio making paper with a few new friends. We were recycling old art papers, some damaged, or some art that did not work. I divide the papers into colors, there will always be a little something that pops up in the making of recycled paper. Sometimes the pulp from one color will stick to the screens and blend with another color. These happy accidents are usually the favorite pieces of hand made paper.

As I am wrapping up the last of the pulp I just let it happen - what is it? Well, I just pour one color into another and start pulling sheets of paper while the blend of the two colors allows me. I have come up with some interesting pieces of paper. Some will become books, others are already ear-marked for pastel drawings. And one even became a painting with pulp.

Today I have a little beige colored pulp left in the vat, so will pull a few more sheets before we drain, dry and deep six paper making for a while. Hopefully, tomorrow I will be back at the drawing table.

Moon Light View - hand made paper pulp painting

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Two 4 Two on 30 - 4 - 30

Here is the sum of our works!
linda harrison-parsons 30 plus challenge - DONE!

Marilu's 30-30 challenge - DONE!

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...