Addiction-Yes I Have an Addiction

I confess, I am addicted to paint brushes.  I love each and every one and cannot help but click “buy” every-time I see a new one on a website.  Here is a picture of my rapidly growing collection and a link to types of brushes and their uses.


The Growing Brush Collection







I have the exotic, like this “cat’s tongue” brush.  I read some of the old Masters used this and I just tried it today and love it.

Cat's Tongue Brush







And then there is the old paintbrush from who knows where that I found in a drawer.  It’s very useful when you want to lop a lot of paint on for a ground.   I usually underpaint most of my paintings with one color or another.  Blue if I am doing snow, yellow if I am trying to be impressionistic and so forth.

"Junk Drawer" Brush


I love the big rounds for the wonderful free strokes they make that seem to imply motion.


Round Brush







And who could forget the fan brushes for delicately putting on layers of glaze.


Fan Brush

I do have a ritual for cleaning all my brushes involving wiping, turpentine and soap and water but they get worn with use.  I think I like them better when they are a little broken in.

I have a dagger brush on order, well backorder (the dastards!) that I am awaiting.

If you have a brush or three you love, let me know.  After all you can never have too many brushes!


Twitter Tweet Twit

Twitter The Original by Nature

This spring I heard many birds twittering and tweeting in my backyard.  And they did it without I-Phones!

I remember back in the day when someone said “Twitter” then it meant a noise birds made.  The logo for is even Larry the Bird.  So I decided to call this painting “Twitter, The Original By Nature”. 

I also was playing around with glazing at the time and glazed many shades and layers on the cardinal.   So if you like it, Tweet it! 



Book Reviews

Book Review: Color: A Natural History of the Palette

I have been reading Color:  A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay.  I am dragging my feet in finishing it because I am enjoying it that much.  She goes through each color as a section, and talks about it’s history and it’s uses and travels to the far-flung places where the color was originally sourced.  Not all these places are easily accessible tourist destinations, such as the lapis mines in Afghanistan she visits or remote villages in India seeking a yellow that was once thought to be made from the urine of cows fed mango leaves.

The making and mining of color has also in the past and even now, been a closely guarded secret.  Recipes are guarded like gold, and in some cases deemed even more precious.   When you read this book you taste the color, and you smell the color. 

I find my mind creates wonderful pictures from the descriptions of the people she meets in her travels as well and I almost want to read the book with a brush in one hand.  When in the very near future I turn the last page, it will be a wistful moment.


Original Art Biography

Underpainting, a technique of the Old Masters-A Still Life

I love to read about art and art techniques.   I’m currently in love with another man, a really creative and amusing artist.  Forturnately for my husband, this artist is quite dead so he doesn’t have to worry.  But that is a subject for another post.

 I read a book by Erik Bossik called How to Create an Underpainting Like the Old Masters: A Step-by-Step Guide.  I liked the idea of following in the footsteps of Rembrandt and others.  I found the idea romantic.   My husband came by and looked at my progress and shook his head and said, “That doesn’t look like a Rembrandt.” 

Of course not silly, I am not painting in his style but trying to use his technique.   I have to admit I spent three weeks on this.  Ack.  If I didn’t try the underpainting and the layers over it I would have finished very quickly.  But you will have to be the judge as to whether the layers “glow” from underneath and I have more texture and color depth if I had not.

So here is my reference photo.

And next the underpainting.  Wow, pretty good.  I like how this came out.


Rut roh, too much color, where’d my egg go?  Yikes what did I do?  Is there any going back or forward.  I’m a color addict!   Someone help me!

The final still life.  


 I am going to try this technique again.  I can’t really get excited about painting a still life.   But I do like how the glaze came out on the bowl.  And the egg.   Onward and upward.

Original Art Biography Techniques

A Limited Palette on the Back Streets of Zurich

Did I mention my husband and I like to travel?   I’ve been going through our travel photos to find things to paint.  I love painting my Pyr dogs but I feel I have to try other things to learn more about oil painting.

I love color and if I could I’d use every single color in my paintbox on every painting.  But most painters do not use every color.  I decided to try a limited palette and as I hadn’t done any streetscapes yet, I used some photos from a vacation where we were walking the back artsy streets of Zurich.   The palette I used was one of blue, red, and yellow making green and pink etc from only those colors.  I also used white.  These are small 8 x 10 canvases so I still find I have a hard time fitting in the little details.

The other thing I am working on is more of a perception of depth in my paintings.  I recently found out about “Lost and Found Edges“.  If you make all your edges clear and hard it makes the painting look flat.  Some should be more vague and blend into the painting.  See the excellent blog post I linked in the text.  There is more to it than just the ones in the back should be blurry.  I haven’t mastered that yet, but I’m working on it.

So let’s start with a reference photo.  Again, I admit I’m not one of these hyper-realists that captures every detail like a photograph.

 I like the repeating element of the flags.  And now for my painting.

 And now for the other reference photo.

And now the other painting.



As the canvases were small, I had to leave out a lot of detail.  I did find the limited color palette had a soothing and harmonious result.   I do want to try these again with a larger canvas and try to capture more of the small details that I left out in these two paintings.



One Scene Painted Three Ways

I decided to take one scene and paint it three ways, a realistic the way “I think” a painting should be painted, an impressionistic, where I tried to paint the color and the light and the contrast, and a palette knife style.  I have since learned more about the impressionistic palette which I use in two paintings that will be the subject of a future post. 

So here is my reference photo.  The beautiful Blue Grotto in Malta.  On my honeymoon my husband and I actually visited this and this is one of our vacation photos.  Sadly, little motorboat after little motorboat arrived almost on a train schedule to this peaceful grotto.  In a another time it was probably a lovely place to sit in a boat, gently bobbing along, uncorking a bottle of wine and breaking some fresh bread and perhaps stealing a few kisses from one another.   However, we, along with others, came, looked, shot a few pictures and buzzed out again because there was a boat in front of us and one behind.


Now here is my favorite of the three.  The “impressionistic style”.  I somehow feel I captured more of the spirit of the place in this one.  But the photo is rock and water.  Easy peasy right?  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I have since learned painting realistic rock is extremely hard (at least for me) and water as well is an “advanced” technique.

 Next, side by side are my realistic and impressionistic style.

 The realistic (right) seems to lack the “poetry” the impressionistic one has.  It seems a bit flat.

And lastly my palette knife technique.   This one was almost an afterthought and done on a very small canvas.  But I wanted to try this technique.

 One of the things I found very difficult with this is that the rock is almost all creamy white with very slight variations in it.  To try and give the depth and the texture I had to exaggerate, and almost intensify colors that were only barely visible.   I found this a challenging exercise.  After doing this I had a complex dream that caused me to look more at the impressionists.  Perhaps I’ll tell you a little about the dream in my next posting which will be about using the impressionistic palette.



Now there are those who are worried about 2012.   They say many different cultures including the Maya have predicted it is the end.  As in the big THE END OF EVERYTHING!  In reality I think the Mayan calendar just ran out and they didn’t think that they wouldn’t be around to provide the world with the new updated version.

But what if all our pollution came back to bite us and to cause the end of…not everything…just man.  Gaia decides to take care of her planet and get rid of the destructive parasites.  Well I think most of life would go on.  The sun would rise and set, the fireflies would come out and the little critters would do what little critters do.  So here is 2012:  Gaia’s Solution.



And Van Gogh had his Ear

I started painting after a car came into my lane and caused severe injuries to my leg.  I couldn’t walk for over a year and spent most of that time in a wheelchair.  Of course, as my job was a field job, that was quickly lost.  So I started to paint.

I’m in good company when it comes to making art after being in some way injured.   Let’s look at Van Gogh, during a fit of anxiety, he cut of his ear and did a self-portrait.  He died at the age of 37 from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Have no fear, I am both older than 37 and have no plans of leaving this earth.

Henri Toulouse Lautrec broke his right leg at age 12 and his left leg at age 14.  The bones never healed properly and he never reached full height and he could never quite move properly.  He threw himself into his art and created such wonderful works such as At the Moulin Rouge and his famous posters of can-can girls from that era.

Frida Kahlo contracted polio at a young age.  Perhaps that was what inspired her to desire to study to become a doctor.  But at age 18 she was in a tragic bus accident. She too, threw herself into her art.  Untrained, except for books and contacts with other painters, she produced some of Mexico’s most well known art.  A self portrait, known as Between the Curtains was dedicated to Leon Trosky.  She had an interesting political life as well as an artistic one.

Well Van Gogh had his ear and I had my leg.  So I decided to turn into art the thing that got me started painting and modeled the painting after my x-ray.  The painting is titled 08 17 2011 the date of my surgery after my accident, where over 60 pieces of metal were installed to rebuild/help nail and screw my bones back together.  Somehow, painting this was healing.  Rather than something that just happened to me, it is a mark of transition in my life.  And now hopefully I can close that chapter and move on, more slowly and less able than in the past, but still move on.


A Jury of Your Pyrs: The View from the Dock

I could not resist the word play.   I have the greatest respect for the courts of Great Britain and no slur is meant.  I don’t think they are going to the dogs.   If you’d like to read about my background research you can read the post Inspiration from the English Courts.

News update:   My Muse Calls and A Jury of Your Pyrs has been blogged about on Law Actually!

Journal Entry

Inspiration from the English Courts

Inspiration can come from many sources.  Lately we have been watching two rather old British shows about the legal profession, Rumpole of the Bailey and Kavanagh Q.C.  The occupation of Barrister dates back to the fifteen century in the Commonwealth Countries of England.  I love the wigs they wear and the language they use. For instance the judge is always addressed formally as “My Lord”.    As I watched them in their floppy white wigs I could not but think they looked a bit Pyr like.  And my muse started nudging.   Here are a couple of pictures so you can tell me what you think.  I found the one for Rumpole of the Bailey on google pictures and the one of Kavanagh is from the website  and it has an excellent article there as well.  If anyone wants me to acknowledge their pictures or take them down just make a comment and I will comply.  The shows are very old so I am having a problem tracking down whether they have been freely released into the public domain or not.

So without further ado, here is Rumpole.

And here is Kavanagh QC


 You can see the accused sitting in the dock with the metal spikes sticking up behind him.





The English courtroom is also set up very differently than the American one.  The judge sits at the front and faces across the room toward the back a raised “dock” where the accused sits.  This is in contrast to how the accused sits next to his counsel in an American courtroom.  There are separate benches or boxes with tables to one side where the counsel will sit.   And of course a jury box and a witness box.  Different courtrooms have slightly different set ups.  Some English cases are only argued in front of a judge or judges.  

The other unique thing is that your lawyer or counsel does not directly argue your case in front of the judge.  A specialist called a Barrister does that.  And the best of the best Barristers are known as taking the “silk”, as they wear special silk robes and the title of Queen’s Counsel or Q.C.  Hence the Q.C. in Kavanagh, Q.C.

The judges also look wonderful in a variety of robes and wigs.  Here is Lord Alverstone from a 1913 Vanity Fair in full regala.









And a here is Sir James Eyre 1734-1799, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.  The painting is by Lemuel Francis Abbot.









Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, dates back to 1673 and has been renovated a number of times.  Here is an artistic rendering of one of it’s court rooms in 1809 rendered by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson. The nickname old Bailey was derived from the street it is located on, which was conveniently next to Newgate Street which housed Newgate Central Prison.







I don’t believe the English Courts allow photographs during it’s sessions.  That is why I turned to art. 

So you can see how I was inspired.  So coming soon, a picture of Pyrs in an English Courtroom.   Pyrs and Peers, how may plays on those words can you make?  One of them is the title of my painting.

Special thanks to Wikipedia and Creative Commons for aiding the dissemination of information and images.

Factoid:  English Court:  Where the Queen is, English Courts: Where the Lawyers are.

If you are sad this post ended and want to go on reading here are a few fun links.

Charon QC ” He awarded himself the title QC when the Lord Chancellor suspended the award for real lawyers. Now, as no-one can instruct him in any matter, or would wish to, he is free to comment as he wishes on matters which catch his attention. He is, of course, a figment of a febrile imagination ”    He gets into a number of current and interesting topics in English law.

The Magistrate’s Blog Musings and Snippets from an English Magistrate

The Anonymous Assistant A real lawyer writes a fictionalized account of the happenings in a City Law Firm.    

Law Actually “He’s been described, on occasions, as a typically deranged law graduate, with a poor taste in blogging and too much spare time on his hands.”   It’s actually pretty good.

OK people….still here?…..  G’nite.