Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shiny & Bright

This 8x10 oil on panel is a shiny bit of joy. Last Christmas I bought our son a surfboard and it was too large to wrap, so when I saw a big bright bow in a store I snapped it up. When we were cleaning up after Christmas I just couldn't throw it out, so, like many things do, it came to live in my studio. In the following months I found that it cheered me whenever I focused on it, and one day when at a loss as to what to paint, it caught my eye.

I love this painting and may not give it up. It describes the complex shapes of the shiny ribon without becoming too careful. I have photos of my easel next to the set up with the bow under studio lights that I 'd share if I hadn't just returned from a holiday party… Instead, I will wish my beloved family and friends, who have been so receptive to my work, a big wide merry, happy and all the best. I love you and hope that the new year brings you the joy that you so richly deserve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fern Glen

Perhaps in celebration of getting a little rain (oh thank you, thank you!) I painted this crowd of ferns, an 8x10 oil on panel. The dream of moist soil and cool shadows with spots of brilliant sun pulled at me. Usually the areas of a painting that are lightest have the most detail, but in this instance the sun hit the frond so sharply that all the detail was washed out. The brightest area simply radiated warmth.

Unlike my last post, this painting did NOT leap off my brush. I knew it would be a challenge because it is a sequence of flat shapes. I am usually drawn to rounded forms that I can bring to life with direct light, core shadow and reflected light. These patterned flat forms vexed me. Why did I choose to paint it? Well, as I mentioned, I blame it on the rain!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Catching The Sun

This 8x10 oil on panel just really wanted to painted. It jumped off my brush so eagerly that I felt like an innocent bystander! I stopped the action long enough to snap a few photos along the way.

After toning the panel with a little Burnt Sienna, I made a quick line drawing placing the elements.
Can you see how eager the values were to get put down? They already leapt into the upper left corner!

I then brushed in the rest of the darks and lifted the lights by rubbing the panel 
with paper towels and Qtips dipped in solvent. 

 Next I moved to developing the color. I try to remain true to the tonal pattern I've established in my value study. I began by putting in the vivid colors that made this composition particularly interesting.

Then I moved to the more subtle colors in the greenery.

And I continued to make the decisions of warm and cool, light and dark 
that give the painting form, depth and temperature.

After letting the painting dry for several days I came back to it and refined the details, pushed the darks where I wanted more depth, and brought up the high lights.

Hope you like it, I had a ball painting it!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seltzer Bottles

I am getting back to my art life after taking some time to focus on family matters, and boy does it feel good!

Here is a 12x16 in my Vintage Visions series. I stumbled on this box of beautiful old seltzer bottles in a big old barn of a building. They caught the light pouring through the door and glowed like jewels. Their beautiful green glass varied slightly from bottle to bottle as did the mechanisms at their top. Minor differences pointing to the fact that they were manufactured in a less industrial era. I envisioned local workshops essentially hand making small batch products. I smiled when I thought of what the workshops must have looked and felt like. Being a maker, I am always drawn to environments where something is being produced. My smile broadened when I thought of the elegant settings the bottles spent most of their career, sitting on polished bars putting the sparkel into countless festive evenings.
How could you not love these gems?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gretchen Wood Williams

Stepping away from my oil paintings and into real life
I'm sharing a charcoal portrait I drew of my mother
Gretchen Wood Williams
as she sat on my couch one afternoon a couple of years back.

She passed away 2 weeks ago
after announcing that she was ready to go.
She was surrounded by family
and lifted by the love that she had generated her entire life.

She began painting at 10, and no doubt drew well before that.
She was a Commercial Artist since she was 17,
though she would say she started much earlier in that she claimed to get through classes
 at Scarborough School and Swarthmore
solely on her ability to make a dashing poster.

She painted in watercolor for 80 years, recording the landscapes of her life.
The stacks of her work testify to her positive view 
of even the most banal of scenes. 
She could always make something interesting out of what she had to work with.

My brother and I have been lucky recipients of her positive perspective, 
artistic encouragement, wit, wisdom, and light touch all our lives.
We are going to miss you something fierce Gretty.

Whenever we come across a scene full of life, color and movement
we will feel your positive spirit.
Whenever there is a particularly funny story, or witty aside
we will remember your artful turn of phrase.
Whenever we gather for cocktails and conversation
we will know you are with us, Tom is by your side, and we are forever a circle.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


And now for something quite different… a painting from my series "Vintage Visions" which celebrates the artifacts that remind me of the huge cultural and industrial changes we've experienced within my lifetime.

 I found this bucket of old wooden spools on the concrete floor of an antique store. Sunlight poured  over the worn wooden forms from an open barn door... remember those? Although these were "standardized" parts, they had been made individually, and were subtly different from one another in size, patina and painted details. I loved the sculptural quality of the composition, the vision of the past it offered, and the echoes I heard of all the hands involved in crafting layers and layers of the necessary parts needed to produce the items we now take for granted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pink Berries

Like tiny bubbles, this is a painting of some delightfully delicate pink berries I found lighting up 
 a bush in the Living Desert. The tiny berries were translucent, appearing to be lit from within 
and glowed against the bright blue desert sky. 

The 12x16 panel's first step - a fairly detailed underpainting in Burnt Sienna 

In the next session on this painting I first laid in the sky and then began bringing the berries to life.

The next step was to develop the branches and blossoms while continuing to round berries

And finally bringing up the lights and pushing the darks, finding cast shadows and highlights 

helped to capture the glow of these sweet little globes of light.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


This 12x16 oil records a beautiful plant I found blossoming profusely under the harsh desert sun.
These bursts of color were small in scale, but reached up from the glossy leaves throughout the plant.
The reflection of the brilliant desert sky and the beautifully articulated shadows on the curving leaves
caught and held my attention. I hope you enjoy it as well.
This is the underpainting, where I worked out the composition and the overall pattern
of light and dark before I dove into finding all those greens.

My pallet consists of 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 greens, 2 blues, 4 browns, black and white.
This series has tested my ability to mix the necessary 1000 shades of green.
Someday I'll move to another subject and perhaps I won't feel
green around the gills after a day in the studio!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dawn Palm

It seems that the soundtrack of my most memorable vacations and adventures has always involved the rustle of palm fronds. This was an early morning sight, recorded while sipping coffee with toes in the sand. As I watched, the sun caught the center of the tree, chasing the early morning shadows away and firing up another brilliant tropical day.

I started with an accurate value study done in Burnt Sienna. This establishes not only the placement of the elements, here is where I design the pattern of lights and darks.

After letting my underpainting dry for a couple of days I began by laying in the clear blue sky that so beautifully set off the brilliant lights and deep darks of the palm.

Then I moved to the tree itself, beginning by placing my lightest lights and the darks of the deepest shadows. 

Then days were spent in finding all the middle tone greens that make up the bulk of the image and then color balancing and fine tuning. I stopped when I could actually hear the rustle of the fronds.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Seeds and Spines

I found this scene in the other worldly cactus garden at Lotusland in Montecito, California. The amazing gardens Madame Ganna Walska spent her later years designing are now open to the public. No matter how far you have to travel to get there, I promise the trip is well worth the effort!

I love seeing the stages the fruit goes through, from small nub to breaking open and offering it's seeds. The sculptural quality of cactus is so satisfying - catching light and casting shadow, creating stripes of bright, warm colors and deep cool shadows. Oh, and the mixed message of the lush, shapely fruit and the bristling defense of all those spines delights me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fierce Offering

This exploding ball of seeds crowns a stalk ringed by layers of wickedly spiked leaves. I love the composition, the dramatic contrast, and nature's endless drive to offer up it's fruit.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mexican Hibiscus

We have just returned from 2 weeks in Bali, a trip that filled my head with enough images and thoughts to occupy me in the studio for months. Despite the vastly different culture and climate, I was surprised to find a great similarity in the plant life there to that we enjoy in tropical Mexico.

This 8x10 on panel was done about a year ago after a trip to Mexico. The richness of color in the late afternoon sun, and the way these flowers reached above the bush to contrast with the colors of the building behind were too good - I had to paint them!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ripening Berries

 I saw these while eating lunch and resting from a morning walking through a breathtaking botanical garden. I sipped my iced tea and happily flipped though the photos I had gathered over the course of the morning. Savoring the quiet and happily reflecting on all the paintings I wanted to get to I gazed around me at the plants that were offering their shade to my table. A ray of sun perfectly caught these berries casting their shadows on the shiny leaves below them. I jumped up to capture their image and didn't think of sitting down again until dusk.
 After establishing my tonal sketch in Burnt Sienna I began by laying in the background.
 I moved to observing the leaves and establishing their patterns of warm and cool, light and shadow.
 Finally I focused on the stars of the show, the berries. I loved the variety of color, the sweet little buttons at their base, their luster and the way they hung in differing ways from the branch.
The last step was to bring up the highlights, focus on the smaller details and make sure I had captured their powerful promise of the next generation of plants.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I encountered this towering succulent on a hike in the high California desert. Looking up into it's muscular arms, with the brilliant desert sky behind I experienced a sensation of smallness than modern, plugged-in types, and women who reached nearly 6 feet in their early teens rarely feel. It was delightful.

I painted this big, like it felt - 20x24.

Monday, April 28, 2014


This is one of the small, 8X10 oil paintings that kicked off my series of succulents. Their wonderfully sculptural quality satisfy my love of abstraction while allowing me to follow my urge to record accurately. This plant is a party in a pot! It's ruffled edges pull in and push out from the center of the plant, catching light and casting shadow all day long. Sharp color contrasts and subtle transitions (missing to some degree in the photo of this painting) make it a feast for the eye. My only job was to record it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Angel's Trumpet

I was stopped in my tracks by this Angel's Trumpet one memorable afternoon in Santa Barbara. My husband and I joined my brother and sister-in-law for a weekend of exploring. We walked through countless breathtaking gardens nestled between the purple foothills and the wide Pacific, and these Trumpets called to me!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In The Stacks

This 8x10 was inspired by our daughter's first set of finals after having left home for college… on the FAR side of the continent. I was unable to help her in any way, precisely like in her high school studies when we all lived under the same roof. I sent her good thoughts as I painted and reflected on the pursuit of knowledge is a constant force of good, for both individuals and societies. The reward worth the effort generation after generation.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Platanitos Musician

This small 8x10 on canvas catches the spirit of my favorite musician at the Ruiz Brothers palapa on the beach at Platanitos, Nayarit. A cowboy to the core, he has a distant look and a serious approach as he serenades the table.

This is the first post on my new blog and I'm pleased you're here with me! I produce a new painting every week or two, and I now plan to share them here. For years I have photographed my work at the end of a day in the studio and sent the image to my kids - basically to prove that I've been working, and hopefully doing something they find worthwhile. Over time my mailing list expanded to the wider family and a list of supportive friends. I have finally put together this blog in order to formalize the process. Thank you for joining me, I hope you enjoy!