Monday, December 10, 2018


"In fact, the hardest thing is to be simple," Sergei Bongart

Of late, I have been in that well-known, yet totally frustrating process of "trying too hard" on several commissions...aargh!   Ideally, I take a break, several deep breaths, and start anew with a BIG brush, thus forcing myself into a simple statement of large shapes.   The old maxim of Look Twice, Paint Once always applies.

Often, as we all know, a loose, unfinished oil sketch is more communicative of truth and life than a "finished" work.  YET... often it's true that we painters do the exact opposite (especially on commissions): less looking and consideration, accompanied by MORE slinging of paint in a frantic effort and vague hope that something/anything will magically work! 

After looking at some of my paintings, both recent and past, it's obvious that many of the ones I still respond to are the pieces where I threw out "trying too hard," and focused!

Focus means sharpening the idea: simplifying shadow shapes, unifying background color and detail, eliminating rendering and accessing the gesture and feeling.  

Third take on the model in live painting session (14 x 11).  
First two studies were "too too."

Quick demo sketch (12 x 9); 
sassy angles tell the tale.

Larger sketch (24 x 24) from photo of a favorite model, Annie.  
I stopped before getting "finished"!

Recent painting (20 x 20), has nice flow,
with little to no detail or background info. 

Portrait Study (18 x 18), 
zoomed in and reduced the triangle, popping the lights with dark background.

Painting of two friends on Provence trip (9 x 12),
zero detail on faces, but the girls are recognizable from shape alone.

Class Demo (16 x 8), 
sketchy but sassy essentials carry the energy.

Bye-bye! A recent start (30 x 30), unfinished.  I went on to "finish,"
and ended up losing the soft and simple feel, causing a paint-over!

Commission painting (18 x 14), 
I was able to keep it simple, yet true....woohoo!
No details of beach or ocean were included behind; also, figure cropping and 
 minor suggestion of clouds make this one stay sharp.

To be able to paint simply, the painter must first find clarity of thought.. Clarity is accessible when one is confident in drawing accuracy, and when one is freed from real or perceived outside expectations.  Just Do It -- Eliminate or paint out useless detail and information copied mindlessly from photographs.   Decide what is most important to say and say that ONE THING. 

Workshop update:

In just one month (January 10 and 11th), it will be time for a painting tune-up! And, here it is:  Simple Focus on Figure Workshop (Painting any subject from your heart) at a new and gorgeous venue north of Atlanta in Alpharetta, GA (Art on Main). 

Some spaces available -- YAY --  we will have fun, while creating dynamic and simple studies with life and energy -- no slaving over detail!

Check it out on my website,, or email

Class Demo Sketch, 20 x 16

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Thanks and Giving Show and Sale

Love in the Abstract, 9 x 12, $ 950

The Brushwork Society, a group of artists here in Atlanta, is hosting a Home Show and Sale in Historic Brookhaven this coming week; they have asked me to participate, along with many other painters!    Lots of nice art and beautiful home accessories from Butternut Studio will be featured (   Come if you can and support Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, which will receive a portion of the proceeds!

Here are a few of my pieces that will be offered -- if you are interested in a painting, call Mary Ferguson at the number above or attend the festivities if you can!   

Warmth, 14 x 11, $ 1450

Positive Vibe, 24 x 12, $ 1950

Softly, 28 x 22, $ 2350

Oh Happy Day, 20 x 20, $1950

And, finally, a nice tribute from the Brushwork Society -- I am delighted to be included!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blue Hues and Summer News

Hydrangeas have been abundant and fabulous this year -- 
alas, the blue blooms have faded by now in our part of the South, 
but it's still fun to look at some different recent and past interpretations 
of a favorite summer inspiration...

June, 2018, Abundant blues in my garden

June, 2018, Fresh Cuttings in a tiny vase,
chez moi

And, also July, 2018, some Late Cuttings, 
in my studio:

Now to the painted ones --

Two recent semi-abstract interpretations:

You Send Me, 2018, 12 x 12,  sold

Lyrical Prose, 2018, 18 x 14, sold

Recent, more traditional hydrangea paintings:

Sweet Surprise,  2018, 16 x 12, sold

Abundantly White, 2018, 24 x 20, sold

Fairly Recent Workshop demo of hydrangeas and fruit:

Workshop Demo, 2017, 18 x 24, sold

This one is kind of fourth of July-ish!

Summer Blues, 2017, 30 x 24, sold

A Couple of Blasts from the Past:

Dance of Blue, 18 x 24, 2014, sold

Remembrance, 44 x 44, 2016, sold
(This one is acrylic)

Hydrangeas and Pears, 24 x 24, 2016, sold

The painting below,  done this spring,

 looked  to me like a bad hair day, so I painted over it!

No Name, 24 x 20

Re-style for my Bad Hair Day: 

Revelation, 24 x 20, sold
(no hydrangeas here)

And finally, below is a little study I recently did of Sarah and Eli 
from a photo taken when they lived in 
Sitka, Alaska!  
They are bigger now and live in North Carolina...

Sarah and Eli, Sitka Summer, 16 x 12, 2018

BTW, I am teaching two workshops in North Carolina next week --
got an email today that two spots have opened for the first workshop 
at the Bascom in Highlands, NC.
July 24 and 25th:  Modern and Free: Let's Paint from Life
If you want to join the fun, call Billy Love at 828-526-4949, ext 140.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Easy Peasy

Oh, it seems so easy... Just Squint!

IF I can remember to do so, painting IS much easier!
Unbelievably, now that my work is more interpretive, I often forget to squint at the subject.
Michael and I just visited friends in FL whose home is dotted with my early work.  Tonight, he happened to mention how much more soulful my current work is in comparison -- yet the new pieces are far less detailed.
Squinting is an important key in making modern, less literal (but true) paintings.
Squinting also helps one to avoid TRYING TOO HARD, and to TRUST INSTINCTS.

Oh, it seems so easy...
But, as we have all figured out, nothing about creating successful paintings is easy, permanent, or fixed.  I guess that's what keeps us in the game:  the hunt, the experimentation, the search for the occasional successful "happy accident," the zinger!

My goal:  to achieve spontaneity and life -- through accurate, strong brushwork -- and to create simple, light-shot paintings.   Yikes!  Every now and then it works, which is life-affirming -- woohoo!

I'm teaching a cool workshop in Atlanta in May (11th and 12th), at the Atlanta Artists Center.  
We will play with different subjects, from life, and also a bit of photo interpretation.  
If you are interested in moving toward more free, personal, yet true work, 
call Zindi at AAC (404) 237-2324, ( to reserve a spot!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Closing out the Workshop Season

...and there are some last-minute openings if you are interested!

First One:

Painting the figure from Photos (and a brief model session) ... 
We will learn to simplify and create powerful paintings!

Friday, October 27th and Saturday, October 28th
Atlanta Artists Center
Call Zindi (404) 237-2324

Second One: 

Paint from Life and Get Inspired!
We will focus on techniques to loosen up and to increase confidence...

Thursday, November 2nd and Friday, November 3rd
Quinlan Art Center, Gainesville, GA
Call Paula (770) 536-2575

If you can join me, we will experiment, learn a few new tricks, and of course, have some fun!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Being Less Literal

"If you always do what you always did -- you'll always get what you always got," 


Lately, I have been trying to be less literal, i.e. using my set-up for a starting point, but not necessarily sticking with that exact representation.  It's OK to change placement, colors, background, whatever, and still retain the power of painting from life...
Duh!  I guess it took me so long to be able to catch in paint the subject before me that I forgot or feared changing things as needed on the canvas.  Often this is a problem as well when en plein air or when using a photo reference.

Below are some peonies purchased last week from Trader Joe's, which I randomly placed in a sparkly glass and added a light source.   I've painted this-type subject a TON in my life, and while I do love white flowers, and the movement of stems in glass vase, I switched it up, as seen in photos below.

I made the decision to roughly paint in a grey-toned background, meant to  pop the pale peonies; the flowers were laid in with lots of palette knife slashes.  When I saw the grey, I thought -- how about a bright vase?  Below is a progress shot, where I have most of the peonies as seen, but then realized that something was needed on the upper left of the canvas.

So I pulled one peony from the glass, in order to see the light effect.  After adding that shape to the painting, it was obvious that the addition helped matters!   I used to be too nervous to change the arrangement (being my literal self and wanting to be able to reproduce the flowers as they appeared). 

Needed peony

 Progress photo with addition of new flower

Then, after correcting a few items, I decided to leave the background way less refined than usual, and was pleased with the pops of light and the spontaneous feeling.  I had to put this one in another room, however, so I would not work on it.

An artist never really finishes his work; 

he merely abandons it," Paul Valéry

Wild Sweet Things, 30 x 24, Oil on Linen

Just found out that three spots are available at the last minute for my Alla Prima workshop at Atlanta Artists Center next week (May 19 and 20th). If you can come, we will have some fun: painting fast and loose and being less literal😎   To join us, call Zindi at AAC -- 404-237-2324. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gesture, Feeling and Truth

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence," 
Henri Matisse 

That Magic Girl, NF, 24 x 12, 2017, Acrylic on Linen

Back to the drawing board!  I have been spending lots of time producing -- and not enough time on filling the tank.
Luckily, recently it's become quite clear to me that a return to the basics was in order. And, oh, the answers sought are right there -- just by drawing, even for 5 minutes, each evening.

For this painter, catching the essence of the subject is the goal.   Details and rendering are NOT!  Life is easier if I am fluent in seeing...and SEEING is honed by sketching, drawing and observing.  

Below are a few paintings of mine, one recent and others through the ages, as well as wonderful collected paintings here in my home...which serve as reminders of the truth of quiet study and easy flow.

Quiet Moment, NF, 16 x 8, 2017, Oil on linen

A couple of my studies from the (somewhat ancient :-) past:

Michael, 9 x 12, NF, c. 2000, Oil on canvas

Pensive, 16 x 8, NF, c. 2008, oil on linen

Sarah at Five, 12 x 9, NF, c. 2012, oil on linen

Now look at these gorgeous paintings in my petite collection, illustrating the humanity and universality of the subjects --  done with an ease of expression possible only from confident practice and frequent studies:

Conte Crayon Drawing, Susan Lyon, c. 2008

Simple Pose, Diane Eugster, c. 2003

Knowing Glance, Scott Burdick, c. 2002

For me, perhaps a bit of growth has happened, but for sure, the nice paintings in my home serve up constant inspiration, if I just remember to LOOK!

FYI, yesterday a few spaces opened in my figure study workshops next week here in the Atlanta area.  The first workshop is on April 4 -5th, and the second April 6-7th.  If you have interest, contact Rae Broyles, Fountainhead Art Space ,!

Quick Study of Annie, 9 x 12, NF, oil on linen, c. 2011