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Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips (plus great new studio lights)

Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips, oil on linen panel, 10x10 inches
Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips, oil on linen panel, 10×10 inches

This painting was inspired by my neighbor’s childhood Montessori Pink Tower blocks arranged like a little cityscape on his coffee table. I found the blocks irresistible and had to paint them. The turnips I’d bought to cook for dinner seemed like a perfect addition (I know, I’m weird, right?) The painting is available on my Daily Paintworks gallery here.

If you’d like to see my full notes with goals and outcomes for each painting session, you can open this small PDF file.  Life intervened between sessions which made painting from life difficult as you can see in the photos below taken at the beginning and end of the painting process: the turnips had started to sprout and wrinkle.

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From Grisaille to Color: Painting a Colored Block Landscape in Oils

Block Landscape, final painting, 12x16, oil on panel
Block Landscape, final painting, 12×16, oil on panel

I wanted to learn how to get from a grisaille underpainting to a full color painting after I did the Frankie Flathead monochrome study. So I decided to set up some colored blocks as if they were a landscape, and paint them in layers, starting with a grisaille, trying to find a method that worked for me.

Above is the final painting and below is the step-by-step process that I followed.

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Meyer Lemons Bowled and New Adjustable Still Life Table

Meyer Lemons Bowled, oil on linen, 8x8"
Meyer Lemons Bowled, oil on linen panel, 8x8"

These lemons came from my little Meyer Lemon tree which produces the sweetest, plumpest lemons. I planted the tree from a small pot about 5 years ago and now it’s as tall as me. I really like the Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel I painted this on, except that it takes much longer for the paint to dry than when painting on Gessobord because it doesn’t sink in to the oil priming.

Still life table beside easel
A= Still life table beside easel

I set up the bowl of lemons on my new rolling, adjustable (from 28″ to 45″ high) still life stand, also known as an Over the Bed Table on Amazon where I got it with free shipping (good thing because it’s not light). Since I was taking a picture of it I thought I’d also describe the other items in the photo since I’m so happy with my painting set up.

A = Rolling, adjustable height Still life stand/Over the Bed Table

B = Karen Jurick’s “Alter Easel” which I love for holding thin panels instead of trying to balance them between the narrow supports on my easel. Works great!

C = Daylight Studio Lamp for lighting the still life (not visible is the Daylight Artists Easel Lamp that is attached to the top of my easel to light the painting (that I was given for free by the company and liked so much I bought the standing light).

D = A silly maul stick (just the top shows) that doesn’t work very well. I’ve seen people using canes instead, hooked over the top of the painting to provide support for your hand when painting details.

E = Masterson Artist Palette Seal with a lid that seals like Tupperware and with a pad of palette paper inside (the palette paper is a recent discovery that I LOVE because it saves so much time from having to clean the palette.) I keep the palette in my freezer when I have paint left over. Once thawed (in a few minutes) it’s in perfect condition for the next painting session. The palette is on top of an upside down plastic drawer from a defunct rolling cart to raise it up high enough for me to use without bending over (I’m 5’10”).

Not lettered but in the picture is the beautiful silk sari fabric my friend Barbara gave me for my birthday for just this purpose and the ancient microwave cart that holds my palette and supplies. Not shown is the rolling plastic taboret I’ve had for 20 years that holds my brushes and other stuff.

OK, I know I’m a gadget girl and many of these things are not necessary. But I feel like painting (and life) are hard enough, why not have great tools to make it easier? There are lots more pictures of my studio under the category “Studio.”

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Reviews: Daylight Easel Lamp and Karin Jurick Tabletop Easel / Panel Holder

Daylight Easel Lamp and Karin Jurick Panel Holder
Daylight Professional Artists Lamp & Karin Jurick Easel Panel Holder with painting in progress

Two recent discoveries have made my painting life easier, brighter and more enjoyable: the new Daylight Artists Professional Lamp and a new prototype version of Karin Jurick’s tabletop easel that serves as a panel holder in a regular easel.

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Pomegranate Pom-apalooza

Pomegranate Revealed, oil on board, 9x12"
Pomegranate Revealed, oil on board, 9x12"

Happy New Year! Thanks for hanging out with me this past year! Even though I’ve had a nasty cold all week I managed to get in some pomegranate painting between nose blowing, naps, and chicken soup breaks, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped to do over my year-end vacation.

Pomegranate value study in oils
Pomegranate value study in oils, 8x5"

I only had enough energy to be in the studio for a couple of hours a day but fortunately the pom waited nicely for me. I started by doing a value study in oils (above), trying to sort out where the darkest darks and lightest lights are and just how dark and light they are.

Pomegranate quick study, oil on board, 5x7"
Pomegranate quick study, oil on board, 5x7"

I did a small study next since I knew I didn’t have more than an hour or so of painting energy. I had fun with this and feel like I’m starting to find a way to get loose and sketchy with oils.

Pom photo under Reveal bulb
Pom under Reveal bulb

I used a GE Reveal light bulb in my lamp which gave everything a pinkish-lavender cast and that’s why I named the painting “Pomegranate Revealed.” GE says they are “specially made to filter out the dull yellow rays produced by standard incandescent bulbs.” I’d bought it originally thinking it would simulate daylight but it doesn’t at all. I usually use a fluorescent 5000K bulb 40 watt bulb (equal to 150 watts) which does a better job of producing clean light.

Pomegranate Revealed - Cropped to 8x10"
Cropped in Photoshop to 8x10"

When I compared the final painting and the studies I realized I liked the original composition with less background better so I experimented with cropping the painting in Photoshop. It’s not hard to cut the board down if I decide to crop it for real.

What do you think? Do you like this cropped version or the “final” version at the top of the post better?

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Painting a Still Life Using The Carder Method”

Still Life with Tangelo, oil on gessobord, 12x12"
Still Life with Tangelo, oil on gessobord, 12x12"

Inspired by Casey’s success with the Carder Method and frustrated with my own slow progress at oil painting, I bought the Carder Method video and  Color Checker tool. Below are step by step photos of my using the method to paint this still life, a brief review of the Carder Method and photos of my studio set up for working with it.

The Carder Method is designed to eliminate many of the problems that can make painting difficult. By creating an carefully lit, controlled environment, a painter can focus on learning to clearly see color and value differences while eliminating problems caused by variables such as changing light.

Click “Continue Reading” to see photos and read more….

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Light and Comfort in the Studio (& How to Light a Still Life)-

I’ve made some improvements to lighting and comfort in my studio and wanted to share what I’ve learned in the process. In the picture below you can see some of the changes from my previous post about reorganizing the studio. These include the floor mat, the wall paint, and a still-life lighting setup.

This post could also be called, “What I Bought Myself for My Birthday” as these goodies were all birthday presents to myself.   (Click the images to enlarge.)

Studio with new cushy floor mat, lighting and dark painted wall
Studio with new cushy floor mat, lighting and dark painted wall


The floor mat pictured above makes a huge difference in comfort. I got the idea at my hairdressers when I wondered how she stands all day. She pointed out her floor mat and when I felt how cushy it was, I had to get one. I work standing at a computer or at the easel much of the time. Without a cushion my feet tend to hurt by the end of the day. I tend to sit until my back hurts and then stand until my feet hurt and then switch agin. The mat makes it comfortable to stand comfortably for much longer.


I painted the wall behind my easel and desk Benjamin Moore “1490 Country Life” using their new Aura line of which is nearly odor free and covers in one coat. I’d noticed studio walls painted this color in many of the painting videos I’ve watched. Finally one of the artists actually specified that this 1490 color was especially popular with portrait artists for their studios because of how the color sets off skin.

But it also reduces the glare off of the previously white wall I was getting from my overhead light and helps to cut unwanted bounced light and the resulting double shadows on a still life that I’m lighting with a strong directional light (more about that in a minute).

I still have to wear the hat you see hanging on the ease—the overhead fixture does a beautiful job of lighting a canvas without reflection, but with a relatively low ceiling it’s pretty bright on the eyes.


Below is the wonderful canvas and supply rack that my next door neighbor built for me.

Canvas storage rack in closet
Canvas storage rack in closet

It can be free standing but was built to fit inside this closet. The four sections on the far left hold already painted panels and for now, the rest hold panels and canvases ready to paint. The structure is seriously overbuilt due to a slight miscommunication. We speak in a combination of English (my native language) and Spanish (his) and sometimes we think we understand each other but don’t. It’s so sturdy it may even hold up the house in the case of an earthquake.

To the right of the structure is still a bit of closet hanging space where I hang my painting smock and my plein air painting outfit, a very lightweight, ventilated, long sleeved, sunproof shirt so I don’t need sunscreen and lightweight pants that are also sunproof that turn into shorts when you unzip and remove the legs.

The top shelf of the structure (below) provides a place to put my other plein air gear: my Soltek easel, my brushes in a canvas brush carrier, and two canvas carriers from RayMar Art, the company from which I also buy my painting panels (they are archival, don’t warp and are less expensive than most of this quality).

Shelf for easel and other plein air equipment
Shelf for easel and other plein air equipment


Below is the setup for lighting still life that I’m finally satisfied with, after trying numerous other lightbulbs, fixtures, and other accessories. I wanted a way to get a strong directional light on the still life so there was good contrast in values, modeling of the shape and structure of the object(s), a strong shadow shape without double or triple shadows caused by interference from other lights, and a light color/temperature that gives the illusion of sunlight. A tall order indeed!

Still life lighting set up
Still life lighting set up

As you can see above this system creates a nice swath of directional light, with a strong single shadow (though the photo doesn’t do it justice–it’s hard to photograph lighting!). Below is another picture of how I have it set up.

I went to a local lighting store and we tried out all sorts of things. It took them awhile to understand that I wasn’t buying lighting to light a painting, but to light a still life I was going to paint. They recommended a short section of halogen tracklighting with a narrow-beam floodlight halogen bulb. They added a cord and switch for me since I was going to keep it nearby rather than permanently install it on the ceiling. Then I attached the track light to a cheap old lighting stand I had from photography days.

Track light attached to light stand
Track light attached to light stand

The ugly cord and switch on the left above is an inelegant solution that allowed me to avoid having to have an electrician wire the overhead light. It just plugs in and switches on and off. Too bad the cord isn’t the right length.

On the two pics below you can see how I used duct tape and a strip of velcro 2-sided strapping to attach the track light to the stand.

Track light with halogen spot attached to old light stand
Track light with halogen spot attached to old light stand
Duct tape/velcro attachment
Duct tape/velcro attachment

Below is the lighbulb we found that works perfectly for this application: Sylvania Tru-Aim Brilliant Halogen (50MR16/B/NFL25) which I think means it’s a 50 watt narrow-beam flood light.

Lightbulb box for track light
Lightbulb box for track light

SInce the light was so bright I made this cardboard shield and painted it the same color as the wall and clipped it on to the easel so I could study the still life without also looking at the light. I’m sure there’s a more elegant solution, but this works. The paper towels sit on a funky paintbrush which is stuck into a slot at the top of the easel.

Cardboard painted with wall paint to shade light, paper towel "holder"
Cardboard painted with wall paint to shade light, paper towel "holder"

My WorkRite electric desk, which holds my computer and monitor not only allows me to work sitting or standing but I discovered that I can use the end of the table by the easel to place a still life at whatever height I like. I can also display a photo on the monitor and scoot the monitor closer to the easel to work from.

Set up for still life with electric desk
Set up for still life with electric desk

I can hang different colored cloths as still life backdrops from the bulletin board with pushpins and I like having artwork on it that inspire me.

The painting to the left isn’t usually there. I hung it when a gallery owner came over for a studio visit because she was interested in including it in an upcoming show (it will be there next month — more about that later).

View from the easel
Another view

I should also say that I have no financial or other interest in any of the companies or products I mentioned in this post. I just like them.