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When doing sketches for future possible paintings or murals

February 7th, 2010

SUGGESTION: if you are doing contour drawings, that is great! BUT if you then want to make these into paintings, you might consider doing some additional “note taking”...

Since painting deals with almost EVERYTHING ELSE, except LINE (which contour drawing ONLY DEALS WITH)...then perhaps you need to take a few more “notes” with that drawing.

1. do a quick value study: 3 values...the lightest, is your paper...then 2 more...the darkest areas, and the middle value...doing this, when you go to paint, you will have reference AS TO WHAT VALUE YOU HAD IN THE SCENERY!!!

2. also take notes as to the COLOR...general flat color: blue, greens, reds, etc. BUT ALSO, the color temperature shifts. Each primary color, also has variations in them....from PURE COLOR (out of the tube) to either lighter or darker (and these are caused not merely from adding a color shifts in value, it also shifts in temperature!!! Warm to cool...)

3. ALSO, you need to become aware of EDGES... Which a line drawing does not always denote. Edges ... Their softness or hardness helps do two things: control where the viewer’s eye travels, and also describes the closeness or distance an object is to the viewer! If the line is SHARP, obviously it is in FOCUS, and possibly CLOSER...if SOFTER, it is OUT OF FOCUS, and possibly further away....

Because a painter is working on a FLAT surface, we have to create THE ILLUSION of space, depth, and this is done by only a few things: COLOR (warm to cool)... VALUE (dark to light)...TEMPERATURE (how warm a color is... Red to orange to yellow to green to blue...these descend in temperature....BUT also, each color has warm and cool colors within them: A warm RED is a Cadmuim, whereas a cool red is ALIZERIAN....the warm red has more YELLOW, the cool red has more BLUE...

Any way...enough of that... Just think of these things, when you are out drawing, and keep in mind that if you want to turn that drawing into a painting, then take notes, or do small color notes, so that when you go back to your studio, you have something to refer to, and not just your memory!!!

Workshops At Home

February 27th, 2009

Workshops At Home

This is a

With the market the way it is today, and the difficulties most folks are experiencing,
there are other ways to get knowledge, without the high cost of physical workshops!!

Several years ago, I wrote a book, 10 Projects En Plein Air, which is now out of print. HOWEVER, I do have a number of copies left!!!

It consists of 10 totally different Plein Air Projects, which shows 6 steps to each painting.

Each one is a total different approach, (from working on dirty surfaces, toned surfaces, local color washes, etc )

Taking you from the raw surface to the finished painting, giving the colors used, and points of interest for each.

Along with this special offer of the book, I will also offer 2 critics for any one selected painting, from the book, of your choice...FOR FREE!

You merely send a small digital image in an email, And I will send you a critique on what you have created! One crit when the painting is “done”... A second on your changes/insights!

With additional critics on any of the other 9 paintings (for $20 per painting image).

If you are interested, please just send a check for $23 for the book+s/h,

Let me know if the book is for you, or for someone else, and I will sign the copy to the person of your choice!


ALSO, any one purchasing the book will also receive a credit of 10% discount from any painting that is listed on line...
This second offer is good for 6 months of the purchase of the book!

ALSO, should you want a crit on another painting that you are working on, merely send a jpg image in an email, along with a payment of $25, (pay pal, or thru this site), and I will send you a critique as shown with the one blog that was listed on Feb 27 2009!


February 27th, 2009


In the spring of 2007 a 6x16 foot mural was created for Mount San Antonio College, of Walnut California. The finished creation reflected the other larger paintings on this artist's space, which presents multiple canvases, creating a very contemporaty presentation. The artist has traveled to many locations to create custom murals, for private and public needs.

The creation of this 6x16 foot mural was accomplished by several means:
First, she traveled to southern California, in order to observe Mount San Antonio, a peak in the San Bernadino Mountains, which is almost in the back yard of the college by the same name. She drove about 100 miles in and out of the city, trying to get a view of this peak, but all the "view" points were usually along the streets of a neighboring town. FINALLY, one afternoon, she happened by a theater whose 2 story parking structure gave her the exact thing she needed: a large space to lay out her 16 foot panels, and to create a plein air painting of this mountain range!

Upon setting her gear up (or should we say "down" since it was laid out on the asphalt!!)... two guards came out of the building, inquiring what the heck she was doing!!! After receiving permission to stay, she painted the entire mountain section of this mural on her hands and knees. For the eucalyptus trees, some of her favorite trees (since growing up in Manhattan Beach, their old farm house was surrounded by them! And also, painting at Catalina Island for 10 years during the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) exhibition, her favorite subject had always been the road lined with Eucs!) Well, for the Eucs, she drove another few hundred miles, taking photos of all the out cropping of eucs that had survived development in the area...then she returned to her studio, to put the entire experience together:
!. the mountains were created "en plein air".... 2. the trees from her photo reference... and 3. the clouds were taken from over 20 plein air cloud studies she had done over 15 years! In the end, this is the mural she presented to Mount San Antonio College in Walnut CA.

ALSO, as an additional gift, she was awarded a one artist showing at the college's gallery, called JEWELS OF COLOR, which exhibited over 150 framed paintings, in the fall of 2007.

The Art Instinct

February 27th, 2009

The Art Instinct

The following is from Robert Genn's Twice weekly newsletter, and the following, my response to it:

The art instinct

February 20, 2009

Dear Betty,

The reason so many people in so many cultures prefer a landscape painting to other art is that in the Pleistocene and earlier times, pastoral images were part of finding something to eat. So suggests philosophy professor Denis Dutton in The Art Instinct. While landscape art may indeed be etched into the unconscious mind as remembrance of happy hunting grounds, lots of other valuable points can be found in Dutton's widely-lauded book:

Connecting Darwin's evolutionary theory to the making and appreciating of art, Dutton says that art had its origins as a display that might lure prospective mates. He views art-making as a skill that only an extraordinary individual could perform--a person who perhaps exhibited a degree of laid-back leisure and who didn't have to expend full resources on the basics. This evolved artistic character could also be seen as taking part in casual, exploratory pursuits, the outcome of which was often unknown. Dutton's idea is that art is a kind of specialized fitness display.

Many artists have known about and reflected on this idea. I certainly did in grade five when Shirley Fulton (the one with the cute smile and the dimples) said she "liked" my painting. Even with my primitive little brain, I knew that Shirley had actually started to like me.

Whether we were cave men or school kids, we soon found out that some of us were good at one thing and not another. Grade-five sport prowess, related as it is to spear throwing, was for the bigger kids. Some of the girls went for the athletic types. Other girls in my class were attracted to Jim Bone, who had smarts in practically everything and even bedazzled Miss Ledingham, the teacher. I stuck to art prowess.

There was a kid in our class who could do magic tricks and make things disappear--like rabbits and handkerchiefs--and he was popular all right, but I noticed that my kind of magic had longer-lasting effects--particularly if I gave a girl something I had made. This sheds light on another situation that Dutton touches on and can't quite figure out: humanity's well-nigh universal distaste for forgery and copying. Even though copies have a kind of appeal for some folks, it's the genuine article--original art from the heart--that really cranks up the old endorphins, gets the oxytocin surging, and is the valued product in the well-motivated artist's display.

Best regards,


PS: "The arts, like language, emerged spontaneously and universally in similar forms across cultures, employing imaginative and intellectual capacities that had clear survival value." (Denis Dutton )

Esoterica: On the other hand, for some time I was attracted to Linda Cozlowsky, who could draw better than I could. Also, her colour sense was really exquisite. I watched Linda a lot. She didn't last. Perhaps two artists in a cave is one too many--which brings us to the territorial nature of visual artists. We are apparently unlike dancers or musical artists, for example, who are more likely to try to be in harmony with one another. Further, individualized mutation in art is related to Darwin's idea of survival of the fittest. The next time you put your work before a selection committee, consider, just for a moment, that you are also being subjected to the long-term process of natural selection.


Hi Robert, not sure if folks write back to you, after you send out your great writings, or not... But here I am...

Like you, I often looked back at my childhood, and wondered why all little kids liked art, or at least do it...and as our lives progress, many drop out of the art expression...and often forget they ever did anything with art at all.

At one point in my life, I was going to go into medical illustration, like Frank give back to society something, for my having been here!

Then, as I studied art, and saw color for the first time in my life, and the great beauty that is there for all to see, but seldom do ... my dream shifted, to wanting to find the everyday beauty that surrounds us all, capturing it and sharing it, and by doing so, possibly help heal mankind...spiritually, and then thru that, physically! To bring beauty into people’s lives, and into their souls!

I came to realize my personal journey fully, after I lost my Dad back in 1996. He was possibly my best friend, you know, someone who accepts you fully, for what you are, as much as for what you are not! Someone who never has to be proven anything to, to get their love and approval! When he was gone, I suddenly realized that I had spent my whole life trying to prove to my Mom that I was worth something! To get Mom’s approval I did everything from yard work as a kid, to going and seeing them when they moved to Virginia, and yes, to pursuing my art! Cause it seemed the only time I got Mom’s approval was when I did some sort of art, as a little kid.

I had always thought I chose the art field, to just satisfy my own soul! Sad, huh? BUT yet, maybe not. Cause in choosing art, I have created some nice things over the years, that may not have been, if it weren’t for this great, deep need to get my Mom’s approval!

And guess what... I still have never gotten my Mom’s approval!! And when I realized that, this past year, it totally knocked the wind out of me! It totally robbed me of my passion! This has been the longest dry spell I have ever been, in my life!

Initially, I thought it was because I have so much gallery quality work, stacked, stored, hanging, from B&Bs to Banks, to my small home (which is more a storage unit, than a house!!!) AT PRESENT, over 400, maybe close to 500 original gallery quality paintings... Most of them are framed! Stacked just about every where!

No, I am not prolific! I just have no really good means of marketing!!! I’ve done the out door shows for years (took over 7 years of these to get my first sale!) Have records of being in over 20 galleries over the years, with little continued success with any one of them.

After seeing the Dolly Parton special the other night, where she decided NOT to give Elvis sole right to one of her songs) I am proud to say, I really do not like giving half my life away to galleries, who refuse to promote their artists at their expense (like they use to), yet they are willing to take half my life, to sell my work. I do believe, and have always felt, artists deserve to have better than the 50% offered to them today! Any gallery that takes 50%, that I have politely stood up to, for additional discounts off my end, have always tossed me out of their gallery. I guess, if I were Dolly, I’d be onto my road of success! BUT NOT SO! Otherwise, I would hot have the inventory of art that I do! (I hope you get a chance to view my web site, listed below).

One of my dreams, besides being a financial success before I die, is to have a gallery, and only take 30% of sales, giving the 70% back to the artist... Heck, if a gallery represents 40 artists, and gets 50% of all those lives... Is that really really fair? I think not! And my final dream, is to set up a trust for Native American children...with all that I have...but have no idea how to go about doing this!! (but that is kind of jumping the gun!!!)

ANY way, your article, seemed to hit a special fiber in me!!! You spoke of “magic” and disappearing things!

You opened a space, that not many people seem to be aware of... The magic of our young dreams!

Why we come to the spot we are, in our lives? “Hope” sometimes wears thin, sometimes it wears out!

AND more important, can we get to where, our dreams once showed us! At this point, I really don’t know any more!!

O, to find my passion again! It was lonely before, but now, it is beyond lonely!!


P.S. Unlike many artists who are too proud, I have even opened a store...hoping to market my “less than-perfect” pieces...and to find people, that my web site cannot. I have worked free-lance my whole art career. Just putting the store together, has taken over 300 hours. You know, if I had been a ditch digger, I would have been retired with a pension by now!!! Not working for almost free!! Just glad I didn’t know this journey would have been this difficult at the beginning, or I may not have had the courage to pursue the arts! I use to think all one had to do was “be good at it”, and success would come. Well, financial “success” is a totally different animal!

Critiquing A Painting

February 27th, 2009

Critiquing A Painting

The following is what I wrote to Robert Genn, whose weekly letters I receive...this is a critique regarding a painting that he put on line, and what I thought of it, at the time I wrote... one must also realize, that tomorrow, I may have approached this totally differently than what I did today!!

Well.... Here goes one opinion (which tomorrow could very possibly be totally different!!!)

Personally, I would have started with laying in the basic value for the deeper foreground perhaps a tad move violet... that is in the shadow area, (to play against the sunlight...yellow... right behind it), which would push the middle to back ground into the sunlight... Getting this foundation laid in, before dealing with the spots of darks representing the trees on both side...this way, the color/value can be done enmasse, without having to ditz around those dark spots.

Getting the LARGER areas of value changes laid in,
will establish a strong foundation to work everything else up from!
THIS IS THE BUILDING BLOCK of the entire painting, regardless of the final details!

For design, maybe pushing the long horizontal far distant silhouetted trees closer to the top of the composition, so that this space was not equal to the shadowed middle ground (the yellow hill on the left, cutting across to the opposite side, right thru where the last of the “white” water can be seen).

ALSO, you almost have a Z composition...and would have been a tad stronger if the last little dark rock on center left was removed, (or not as dark as the one in the shadow! Right now it is pushing a hole in your sun light area) and the yellow hill, dropped down a tad lower as it travels to the right, would have pulled the eye along the z caused by the water, and cause an invisible diagonal starting at that dark spot 1/3 up from the bottom right! Right now, it is almost there, but its power is broken with that rock.

The foreground is nice, the values hold together well... With the nice 30-60 triangle of the front beige area, playing against the shadowed foreground... Is nice that the water cuts this shadowed area into 1/3 and 2/3... Creates a nice sense of movement... Also the top edge of this, curved on the left, and straight on the right (angle being a 45°... Which pulls the eye back into the composition!)... Also the offset of the dark on the right, and disappearing as it progresses across the mid foreground, on top of that 30-60 angle, is a nice touch! It also stops the movement of the water above, and redirects it to the opposite descending corner!

To create more shift from shadowed foreground to sunlit back ground, the color in the foreground could have had a tad more violet, so that the yellow of the sun light was more contrasty, without being actually a value change, make it a Complement color shift! One thing an artist does not want to do, is wash out their color, by lightening it...

This color shift can also be created by playing comlements against one another! (contrast can be created several ways: value changes, complements played against one another, clean color against tainted color, chalky color against pure color).

Also, to create a tad more movement from left to right, using that dark tree line... Several things could have been done, to create more interest, a nice additional touch might have been:

to have the trees more dense on one side than the other

(darker or temperature change or less detail from one side to the other,
by not having each side have the exact “caligraphy applied” to create the illusion of trees!)

2. Have the trees setting further back in the composition from one side to the other
thus making the VALUE and TEMPERATURE different from one side to the other

3. and perhaps to create a tad more interest in the immediate foreground,
having the water a tad wider as it exits the format...right now, it is almost the same width
as that of the water in mid-ground area.
IT IS NICE, that the water has more color, as it comes toward the viewer!!

4. It is nice that there is a difference between the two mid area sides...
the left being simple,
the right being broken up with more complicated shapes,
which demands the most interest/attention

The over all color, temperature and statement is pretty nice...
the simplicity of the foreground plays nice against the more complicated middle area,
which then sets nice against the subtle distant forest!

As it stands, it feels like it is still in the lay in stage...or that it is a nice “sketch”.

I do love the first lay has a lot of movement...
Reminds me of a sumi painting!!!

And almost has more power than the final statement!
(but again, even in this stage...the “two main actors”
are both vying for the attention!! That of the trees!!! )

This “tree challenge” can be solved by:

either grouping the one side, and making the trees more massive,

(less broken values/shapes) or

2. pushing one side further back/pulling one side further forward
3. making one side darker and warmer, and more info/detail than the opposite side

Well, you asked for my 2 cents, and got a bucks worth!!
Was fun!!!

Thanks for the experience!

Elizabeth J Billups

Live Well ... Laugh Often ... Love Much!!!

Member of Plein Air Painters of America
PAPA Ad Chairman 1986-96

Author: 10 Projects En Plein Air Painting
(available from web site)

Let the artist show his world, the beauty that was born with him,
that never was before and never will be again.
Hermann Bahr

"Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we're here we should dance..."

"Those who danced were thought to be quite insane,
by those who do not hear the music...."

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass...
it’s about learning how to dance in the rain. "
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen
and thinking what nobody has thought”
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi,