Now you can order Creating for a Cause products online at (new address) Shop to Shelter for Lila Mae’s House! (external website)
See my Creating for a Cause page for background on this special collection of notecards, scarves, and bags featuring images from my artwork, developed to promote awareness and to raise money for organizations working against human trafficking. The section Help us “Create for a Cause!” tells about workshops where we make the pouches to bundle the notecards.
(This post is “stickied” to remain at the top of the blog; newer blog posts may appear below.)
University of Iowa graduates approach along Iowa Avenue in
downtown Iowa City, with the Old Capitol Building in the distance
In honor of my granddaughter’s graduation I painted these scenes of Iowa Avenue in Iowa City, with Maddie and her roommates in their graduation attire. I reminded the graduates that they may remain friends forever after living together for four years. I still see my former ISU roommate and other amazing women I lived with in those college days.
In front of the shop with “Laundry Day” fabric print
Ames still feels like my hometown and the Octagon is where I got my start. It was great to be back, bringing paintings and prints for the Octagon Gallery Shop!
The original paintings are “Backyard Chickens” (16″ x 20″) and “Waiting for Supper” (20″ x 25″), and the large polyester print is “Laundry Day” (30″ x 40″). There are also lots of my bird prints and several pillows, among the works of “over 180 area artists.”
The shop is at 413 Douglas Avenue in downtown Ames, next door to the Octagon’s Community Gallery.
Inside the Octagon Gallery Shop:
“Laundry Day” polyester print is shown above the interior doorway into the
Community Gallery, and my original paintings on the opposite wall.
An earlier impression of people on the beach
Masking to leave white space
for a new painting’s seagulls
Several years ago I visited friends in Florida to soak up the atmosphere and paint three scenes of South Beach for them. I could smell the ocean, observe the people and hear a variety of languages as they passed by. The area is known for its Art Deco buildings and museum, and looks different than any other place I’d been.
Recently a visitor noticed the watercolors in my friends’ building and commissioned two large paintings using the same style and subject matter. Although I never got to talk with him about what he wanted, he trusted I would find a way to personalize the new work. I did research and sent smaller preliminary watercolor sketches to make sure I was on the right track. Then I could feel comfortable starting on the final, larger paintings.
Preliminary sketch of a beach scene
Preliminary sketch of scene along Ocean Drive
As I got into it, the story started flowing like a novelette. Each of the characters has their own things to do. A sunbather gestures to illustrate the story she’s telling. Skateboarders and roller skaters roll along Ocean Drive while passersby admire sports cars on the street. Between the sketches and the final paintings, a beach umbrella and pedestrian’s bag have taken on the colors of the Italian flag, and a beach chair has the Ferrari logo.
It was enjoyable to take a mental trip to Florida again as our wind chills were -60 in Iowa at the time; made me warm just thinking about it.
Final painting of the beach scene, 30″ h x 40″ w
Final painting of Ocean Drive scene, 30″ h x 40″ w.
The ocean is to the left, beyond the painting’s view.
An exercise in shading —
students’ painting using my outline
(photo courtesy of Mary D.)
View from the second floor
People bring a painting alive. My classes want to put people in their landscapes, so I painted different points of view as examples. Above left, since we didn’t have a live model, as a way to teach technique I sketched two figures using tracing paper over a painting of mine. Students copied the outline by holding up watercolor paper over the sketch in a bright window. With the outline to start from, they could focus on that lesson’s techniques of watercolor shading.
Above right, I was enjoying the shadows of people walking by. It feels kind of voyeuristic to paint people if they don’t know I’m painting them, so I try to be respectful of their privacy in the artwork. I have many journals full of people I’ve sketched and those same people end up in my paintings. I cut them out and start placing them in a watercolor to get the story going.
Wagon delivery service
For a recent family wedding the groom’s brother, an event florist, created wonderful floral arrangements for the reception tables. Afterward my grandson put some in his wagon and pedaled them out to my car to take with me. My watercolor class members brought them from the car for us to paint and enjoy their beauty.
Showering watercolor paper
Quality watercolor paper is made from cotton, and cotton shrinks. If it does that while you’re working on a painting, the paper will ripple and the paint will go into puddles and change the image. To keep that from happening, before I start I pre-shrink the paper — for a large sheet, by wetting both sides in the shower! Then I hang it up to dry, free hanging so it slowly shrinks down.
This keeps the paper from changing shape as much while painting, and makes framing much easier. I’ve been known to re-wet just the back of the paper after a painting is done and carefully iron it so it sits more nicely in the frame.
The starting picture provides a vantage point
In progress: The painting with
foreground figures not yet completed
I painted this view of the Palace of Holyroodhouse (or Holyrood Palace) in Edinburgh, Scotland, for some friends who had been there on their travels and provided me a small picture to work from. It was such a small picture that first I had to blow it up larger, and I still wasn’t sure if some white things in the foreground were sheep. My friends thought they could be, and liked the idea, so in the painting there are sheep, along with the travelers themselves taking in the view.
The couple who commissioned the painting are both novelists and we talked about how we start the dialog of what’s going on so a story comes to life. They use adjectives to describe a scene, where I use color and texture. As a writer or a painter, it’s all about interpretation.
Holyrood Palace painting completed
An earlier painting for the same friends, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile looking toward St. Giles’ Cathedral
A photo to start from
People bring in a photo to class of what they want to paint, and it can be scary to look at and try to figure out where to begin. Often a photo is way too busy. Select what’s important — what you want to say — and leave out the rest (maybe adding a few neighbors to the picture!).
We start with a black-and-white sketch, finding the big shapes first, developing a value scale and organizing so it has a focal point and story. After that we paint a small color study the same size as the sketch. Then we’re ready to enlarge and paint the final version. All of the preliminary composition work is done so we can just have fun.
Figuring out what to
leave in and what to add
The painting follows the “road map”
provided by the sketch and color study
Some examples from day 1 of Landscape class
Composition gives the eye a path through the landscape
Despite the arctic weather we’ve been having, the new classes are going well because people are staying in and painting!
This session I divided my courses between Watercolor Landscape, and Watercolor Portrait Painting.
Proportions illustrated on a sketch and selfie
A class member starting from a photo
to creat a watercolor portrait