Saturday, August 01, 2020


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It probably makes sense that I like big cats, considering I'm a Leo. They are such magestic animals. This is another one I did from a Pixabay reference. I think it's a tiger?

And above are some little studies I did for this month's DPW Challenge. The idea is to choose a subject and do a series that slowly gets simpler (but still reads like the thing). I did two sets, so top left of each set are my "complex" versions - ha! #2 is top, right, #3 is bottom, left, and #4 is bottom, right. This was hard for me!! My husband says it's because I already simplify my subjects. He's probably right. But if you find yourself overworking, and want to simplify, join us in this challenge!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Morning Dinghies

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I can't remember for the life of me where I took the reference for this. I found it in an old file labeled "boats." Ha. I've gotten better at organizing my files since then.

Clouds Over Montana

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Here's a little gouache from a recent explore east of Missoula. I'm really enjoying painting clouds.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Master of Patience

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Herons are majestic birds. I don't see them often, but when I do I stop and appreciate. Though I'm never ever close enough to get good images. Many thanks to the kind people who put their lovely pictures up on royalty free sites like Pixabay!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sunrise Over the River

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This is a view of the Clark Fork River, from above, at sunrise. And now, a bit about...

GOUACHE vs. OIL, my experience so far...

Keep in mind that my gouache paintings so far are mostly smaller than my oil paintings, and that I’ve been using gouache now only for a couple of months, vs, oil (20+ years). And of course that I do things my way, so your experience may be different.

Because gouache is new for me, it’s EXCITING! It has renewed my enthusiasm for art in general. I’ve learned things that I can take back to oil and experiment with. It’s made me realize that trying a new medium is a great way to get out of ruts!

The biggest benefit of gouache for me is that it DRIES FAST, so layering is much easier than with oil (alla prima). This works out well for me with landscape, because I don’t always know how I’m going to paint it until I’ve tried a few things. Gouache is a little more forgiving when it comes to “trying things.” With oil I feel like I have to plan a bit more and be more sure of where I'm going before I start.

Because gouache dries fast, the colors tend to be “CLEANER.” There’s no accidental mud making. When I make mud it’s on purpose.

Another benefit of gouache is that I can come back to a painting ANYTIME, and it’s like I was just working on it. With oil, if you come back later, there’s a lot to think about: fat over lean, is it dry enough or is it tacky still, etc.

My experience of gouache has been QUICK and FUN! I’ve easily done as many tossers as keepers. I’m happy to look at the tossers and think not, “Oh crap, look at all the bad paintings I did, and all that time I wasted,” but rather, “I enjoyed those, and I learned so much!”

Working small, combined with all these benefits, has forced me to think a lot about DESIGN and VARIETY. I feel a lot more confident about my landscapes now, and think I may start turning my small gouaches into larger oil paintings. In fact I may always use gouache as a starting point to try out ideas for larger work.

There are LOTS OF WAYS to use gouache. The easiest way to describe it is like an opaque watercolor. But you can thin it with a bunch of water, use it thick, or anything in between. You can paint in big solid areas, little brush strokes, or more of a dry brush with layers. And I’m still discovering more!

The CLEAN UP after gouache is quick and easy. And I don’t have any solvents or oily rags to deal with.

One CHALLENGE of gouache is that as the colors dry they usually end up a little different than when they were wet. This is more true of the lights and darks - lights dry darker and darks dry lighter. It’s very frustrating, until you get used to it. But for some reason this has helped me think about value more simply, which I think has helped my landscapes.

Another challenge of gouache is the EXPENSE of good paint (I use Holbein). BUT, the brushes are cheaper because they don’t wear out as fast as they do with oil. And the illustration board (which I can buy in big sheets and cut up into whatever sizes I want)  is much cheaper than the gessobord I use with oil.

An UNFORTUNATE thing about traditional gouache is that it is water soluble forever. So if I get even a drop of water on the finished piece it will change it. When I sell them I package them safely in a plastic “bag” (, and include a little explanation about being careful and framing behind glass. (I am experimenting with using a wax varnish ... no decision yet)

The one big thing that is much easier for me with oil is if I ever want to BLEND. This can make for some really interesting edges in particular. I’m still learning how to get a variety of edges with gouache.

All that said, I'm not advocating one over the other. I still like gouache mostly for landscape, and oil for my other subjects. I'm quite happy going back and forth between them. : )

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Red Pickup

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This is an oldie, from Eugene. I just painted it, but took the reference years ago. A big thank you to all those who keep old vehicles in good condition and park them in accessible locations!! I could just kiss you all.

If you're interested, I posted a reference for this truck (from a different angle) as a DPW challenge, back in 2012. Take a gander and ... paint it! If you dare (evil laugh...)

What Carol? You go from kissing to laughing evil-y, all in one short post? Yes.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Picky Pelican

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Pelicans are awesome. And I just adored the image this came from (on Pixabay).

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Just Around the Lake

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Four times now, over the years, I have hiked way up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and painted with friends, for a week each time. There are no words to describe how wonderful each and every trip has been. I've taken lots of photos, and have been poring over them lately because ... I'm not going this year. : (

The reference for this particular painting was taken on a day when I was painting by myself on the opposite side of the lake from camp. The clouds were spectacular, so I clicked away, but I also quickly realized that the clouds were getting darker. So I hoofed it around the lake just in time to dive into my tent. My nap lasted just as long as the rain, and then I was out and painting again. BTW, This is my biggest gouache painting yet! Woo!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Una Piccola Pausa (A Little Break)

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This may sound weird, but I love the tiny, little, old people in Italy (and France). They are so cute. Another one from Florence.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tree Gangs

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This is one from a recent explore. I never know where I am going to find beautiful things so I just aim in a direction and drive. Here there are lots of signs along the road for "fishing access" and I often stop at these spots, just in case there's a good view of a river. At this one I found my scene looking away from the river - these gorgeous trees clumped just so, with the beautiful shadows they cast. Love it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Warm Spot to Wait

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Here's another one from Florence. I wanted to experiment with unfinished edges, and decided this was the perfect scene for it. It was a challenge though because I use a grid when I'm painting people so I can get all my people parts in the right places. : ) I didn't want to leave grid lines behind so I only used them in the upper right quadrant (where the people are). I also changed a few things - there was a big trashcan, left, front, and I took that out; the backpack in front was an odd color that demanded a lot of attention, so I changed that; and a few other little things. It was tough to decide what edges to "lose," and how to do it, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Monday, July 20, 2020

3 tries at one scene, 2 mediums

Click Here to Bid: TOP (gouache, 3x8in.), BOTTOM (oil, 2.75x8in.)

For this month's Daily Paintworks Challenge, I proposed painting a single scene in 2 mediums (more for extra credit!). I posted the photo for this scene as an idea (but you can use anything you like). It took me a while to do it myself, but this is it, and I learned a LOT!

The top one is gouache. I did that one first. I cut a panel for #2 (oil - middle painting) the exact same size, and was really frustrated in painting it. I took a break after, and came back having decided to try one more time, on a slightly shorter panel that was leftover from cutting the other one (bottom painting). I experimented quite a bit with the whole thing - tried to approach each part a little (or a lot) differently. While the result probably looks very similar, I am much happier with the third one, and this is really where I learned. 

For example after doing the second one I realized that the ground I put down tinted the whole thing kind of pink (ugh). So for #3 I didn't use a ground, and the colors came out cleaner. Also for #3 I blocked in the whole thing first and this really helped me get all the relationships working from the start without having to make big changes later. I have found in general blocking in is helpful with landscapes, since the relationships (especially value, but also color & temperature) are so critical and often subtle.

Anyway, I HIGHLY recommend doing this!! And if you do, please post what you painted to our challenge (you don't have to be a member). Happy painting!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Arise Mountains

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The last one I posted was from just before sunset, and this one is from just after sunrise. Both are from the same area, near Toll Mountain here in Montana. One cool thing about gouache is that there are a bunch of different ways to apply it. You can add a whole bunch of water and use it almost like watercolor. Or you can put it on thick. Or you can layer it with a dry brush, like I did here for the foreground grass. I'm really enjoying experimenting with this new (for me) medium!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Evening Stroll at Toll Mountain

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This one is from our most recent camping adventure. Because we were outside most of the time, I was able to catch the light when it was really magical. So I've been telling myself I should get out and walk/drive around in the early/late hours here at home too. But have I done it yet? Nope.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Your Pale Pinkness

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I tried really hard to capture ALL the colors of this painting. It was impossible. My camera just wouldn't do it. Suffice it to say, the real thing is better.

There are tons of these little wild roses in Montana, but this one's actually from Eastern Oregon, from a trip my family took about 5 years ago. I had to play around with the background quite a bit, but I'm finding gouache pretty accommodating. It takes layers gracefully (more so than oil, IMHO).

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Colorful Family

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This is the last of the peppers, so I'll be back to painting soon. My back is doing better, yay! Meanwhile we've had our HVAC (heating/cooling) system completely overhauled. The need for this was an unhappy surprise to us. Sigh. New house, new problems.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Blodgett Creek is Clear

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This is another one from Blodgett Canyon. The calm parts of the creek were oh so clear. I need to go back soon to see if the torrential parts are any different now that it's later in the summer, and almost all the snow up high is melted.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Managing the Brood

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This might be the reason peppers are so bad at planning (see previous post). They're tired. Because they have too many kids! I mean, 4 is totally insane. I should know, I am second of four.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Colorado Rocky River

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Here's one from Colorado, somewhere in the Rockies. The sun was shining strongly in the distance, but everything else was in shadow. I find this very difficult to paint, and even more difficult to photograph with any accuracy. I promise the painting is better than the photo.

Bitterroot Valley

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If you drive south of Missoula, on 12, you are basically in the Bitterroot Valley, with mountains on either side, and breathtaking views every other minute. It's especially spectacular when there is still snow on the mountains (it's mostly all melted now), but it's always gorgeous. When I'm on my own I stop often on the side of the road to snap pictures. This is from one of those stops.