Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Donna's Daily Works

I call these my Apple A Day Works - 
sort of like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a quick work at the start of each day teaches me so much and keeps me aware of  the color, design and shape of my art.

This morning we have sunshine after a few days of rain. The light through my window is wonderful, so I started and completed a 40 minute study, using a nice red and pale green Macintosh apple I picked up yesterday at market. The candle holder is one that's been in our family for twenty plus years. I seldom use it for the table but I do love the shape for painting. :)

Morning Work, oil on 8 x 8 prepared panel

Here's the completed work - 8 x 8 oil on prepared panel - so this is one of my extra mat boards, leftover from framing. I cut these to size, apply a coat or two of gesso and they're ready to go. These are great for studies, very economical and if things don't turn out the way I envision, the investment in money and time is minimal. For me it's a great way to paint on affordable surfaces and get some education too.

Mac and Candle Holder, oil on 8 x 8 prepared panel

Today is the last day of September and the final day of Leslie Saeta's 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. You can view all images posted by participating artists at

I actually painted my last work yesterday morning. Our kitchen table held three vine ripe tomatoes - very ripe in fact. They were ready for a stew or salad for sure. When time is running out on these items, I do a quick paint and use them in something I'm cooking for dinner. No waste here if I can possibly help it; every penny counts.

My photo of the set up is here. It shows my block in, trusty cardboard box, pillow case, dark foam core panel and objects to paint. The window to my left offers nice lighting at different times of the day. It can get too bright at times, and too hot, but early morning offers a good hour and a half of choice lighting - much better than what this photo shows. I have a large studio easel to the right of this photo, but my table top is great for these early morning sketches in oil. It's a bit worn after twenty plus years with me. I take it almost everywhere, but it works like a charm and I love the compact ease of these small easels.

Tomatoes and POP set up, using a 9 x 12 canvas paper taped to foam core panel

Here's my finished piece and my post for today's 30 in 30 challenge with Leslie Saeta. This is 9 x 12 canvas paper which I have adjusted to over the past couple of months, and have come to love through trial and error. In truth everyday comes with trial and quite a bit of error. :) I find these economical and easy to take along outdoors, or on a trip out of town. The Strathmore canvas pads are more like a textured paper, while the Fredrix pads are a fabric. I like each but find the textured paper more to my likeing - it's a bit sturdier.
All for now, thanks so much for stopping by and have a great Wednesday. Peace and Health -

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

My post today for the Leslie Saeta 30 paintings in 30 days is just below. It's 27 of September, so this is number 27. I've included a photo of the set up as well. These pears were a lovely shape - so I decided to explore that aspect, as well as the colors in the red plum. I knew time was running out on their life expectancy...when that happens, it's time to do a quick paint. No shine this evening from the lighting at my window. :)

Red Plum, Yellow Pears set up 8 x 10 oil on canvas

And here's the completed painting...I'm a true fan of artist Maggie Siner and find her work a real source of inspiration. Her use of color and shape make for a wealth of satisfaction.

Red Plum, Yellow Pears 8 x 10 oil on canvas

One project I have slotted for this week is a portrait commission. I'm looking at things tonight so I can send a update to my client. This is her family's 20 year old pup...what a beautiful dog. I worked up this charcoal study to have a go at the stunning face on this her eyes and expression. It's due pretty quick - less than two weeks so I'll close for now and get back to it. Thanks for stopping by. Peace and Health...

Portrait Commission Sketch, charcoal and touches of red chalk

Reference Photo - what a beauty...


Friday, September 25, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art. 

I have such great respect for the construction of a bird's nest. Ingenious creatures, birds are wonderfully suited to recycling found materials and weaving those items into a beautiful work of art. I know the word can be over used at times, but I find the process truly amazing...

So in my studio I have boxes of items that I use for still life set ups. Nests line one of my shelves - I have five now. These have been left behind, and for whatever reason, have fallen from the tree. I've found a couple here in our yard at my home studio, and another three on walks with our dogs. Nests are a real challenge to draw or paint - I learn so much each time I try. They're delicate yet structurally sound pieces of art. Such an education...once again...respect -

Morning Set Up with straw nest and partial egg I found

Here's the completed hour and fifteen minute study on 6 x 12 linen panel, and my post for today's 30 in 30 challenge. I will do more of these - great exercise. This shows a limited palette of ultramarine blue, pthalo blue, raw sienna, cad yellow, plus white. I learned a lot...

One of my first studies in charcoal, and a really fun exercise. Using vine charcoal sticks, I blocked in the dark shape of the nest and relied upon my eraser to lift the lighter strands that make up the nest layering. It went pretty quickly and all in all I was happy with the result.

Nest Study, charcoal on about 6 x 9 or so paper

The next morning I turned to sweet gum balls, also from my yard. My alternative to raking. ;0   

Sweet Gum Balls, charcoal on about 6 x 12 paper

That's all for now, thanks for stopping by. My pups are about tired of me doing this painting/drawing thang....time to eat. Peace and Health all -

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art. 

This week I'm preparing instructional materials for charcoal classes. I've been cleaning out tins and my box that I store sticks and other things in to get ready, and have what I need on hand. Although I use a variety of sticks and pencils, willow and vine charcoal is what I turn to most often. I appreciate their mark, and vine or willow are so much easier to lift than charcoal pencils. They're typically what I use for initial stages of a drawing or sketch. I can purchase a variety so I have a working range of values; light to dark.  I use these sticks with pencils and compressed charcoal sticks which give me rich, dark values but are not as easy to lift away.

This case is great; a Winsor Newton product I found on clearance. I carry it out with me most days. It came with a kneaded eraser which I tried out, but the General's works better for me. I find the other much too sticky and lacking structure for what I do.

I've posted portrait images below, completed in pencil and vine charcoal. There's also a quick demo sketch from a class. For me, vine lends itself to a looser interpretation, while I can get some nice detail with pencil. I enjoy both, but do rely upon vine much of the time.

Charcoal Case - I take this almost everywhere

Willow and Vine Charcoal Sticks

Portrait using Charcoal Pencil
Portrait using Vine Charcoal
Form - demo sketch using Vine

I'm still catching up, here's my post from Monday's 30 in 30 challenge, day 21. This is a full view of one side of the lake just around the corner from my home studio. It was a quick demonstration and a lot of fun to paint. A couple of painting knives helped make this one go fast. I limited the palette to pthalo blue, terra rosa, cad yellow, ultramarine plus white. This was a bright early morning. I think more pinks and lavendars would be nice -

6 x 12 oil on linen panel

That's all for now. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. :) Peace and Health -

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art. 

 Today is one for catching up as I have not posted since Friday. I've been preparing materials for classes, doing family things, cutting grass and yes....painting. :)

 So this morning I'm posting some work from the past few days.

This is a little painting I worked in a field that's very close to my home studio - painting knife to get things done quickly before the light shifted too much. I believe I posted this one for the 30 in 30 challenge on Saturday. Horses graze here and I really love the trees - very green and a great place to slow down for an hour. I can bring an apple or carrots for the horses and they'll come up for some conversation and close sketching. The charcoal study below shows Trio, a sketch from the other side of the field shown in the painting.

Sunset in Field, 6 x 6 oil on canvas

Trio, charcoal on18 x 24 paper

Sunday was a family day. I did some things in the morning quite early, but late that night I decided to revisit a plein air study from a while back. This daily was my 30 in 30 post for Sunday - it shows a coastal scene with a lighthouse in the distance. I do love this spot and thought it would be a nice quick study before bed. Once again, this was done with a painting knife to make the work go fast.

That's all for now. Thanks so much for stopping by. Do have a good and productive day...Peace and Health -

Lighthouse, 6 x 8 oil on panel

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

Today I'm sharing photos of prep work done earlier in the week. On this day I cut and primed panels  for drawings and paintings. I buy larger panels and cut them here at home to save money. 
The top image shows my cut wood panel with a first coat of gesso. I find these make a great surface for charcoal when primed with Blick Artist Grade Gesso.
The gesso pictured here is actually a leftover studio grade from my summer classes with middle and high school students. Since I don't want to waste product, I will put it together with Golden pumice gel that I have on hand; a medium grit. The pumice gel texture will add tooth to the finished panel; better for charcoal. 

The Blick Studio Grade works just fine, I simply prefer the tooth of the artist grade. So what you see here is a ratio of gesso and pumice gel applied to the panel. I'll check the tooth and add more pumice gel with the second application of gesso if necessary. I can sand as needed or leave things as is.
Just a note: I typically use larger brushes with this prep work than the ones pictured here - for me bigger brushes add even greater underlying texture to the panels. I especially like this for the charcoal works. And the great thing about working charcoal on these panels is no need for glass. I finish them with a non-yellowing polyurethane.

Cut wood panel, brushes, studio grade gesso, and pumice gel

The image below shows a finished charcoal work on one of these panels, 25 x 15 in size. I prepared this image for Red Door Gallery on the Marietta Square during this summer's Artwalk Season which runs April through October. I can cradle these and add depth or frame them in a more traditional manner.

Fluid, Charcoal on prepared wood panel

Here is an image that shows leftover mat board which I cut and gesso for paintings. These are quick and easy to make up the night before a painting day. As they're lightweight, transport is easy for outdoor painting and they work really well for studies.

Leftover mat boards cut up and primed for panels

That's about all for today. Here's my post for Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge day 19. This field is just a short walk or a quick drive down from my home studio. It's a beautiful place to paint; horse stables are close by so sketching is fun. I bring apples so they come right up. I'm fortunate to have access to it - the family there is very accommodating. :) Thanks very much for stopping by...Peace and Health

Sunset in Field, 6 x 6 oil on cradled canvas

Friday, September 18, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art. 

My morning post for Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge, day 18 is a sunset from about a week ago. This is painted on a cut and primed 6 x 8 mat board using two or three knives. Time spent is 30 to 40 minutes. After about 15 minutes the intensity of light is mostly gone from these sunsets so I try to work fast, and rely upon memory.
This place by the lake is one I really enjoy, Galt's Ferry on Lake Allatoona. I teach classes here on summer evenings. It's a great place with boating, fishing, a playground and a sandy beach area with picnic tables. During the season, it's $4 to park, with hours from something like 8 am to 9 pm. Very nice...I myself have a favorite table. It faces the setting sun on warm summer nights.


Earlier today I worked with charcoal - creating sketches - figurative works for my dance series. The image pictured below is one of a handful. Our daughter is a dancer and my muse for this series. She has a really great scarf and ruffly dress. Lucky for me...

Flamenco Dancer, Charcoal on about 18 x 16 paper

Also on my drawing board today is this charcoal work - a study for a larger painting in oil. I'm not sure that I'll handle the oil in the same fashion, but this was good practice. These young women were walking around at last month's Artwalk in Marietta. We began to talk - sweet young ladies and students at a local dance studio. As it turns out, I have a pair of new models. :) Thanks girls...

That's all for now - thanks for stopping by. Peace and Health

Marietta Ballerinas, charcoal on 18 x 24 paper

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

I went out during the afternoon to work in charcoal by the lake. Charcoal is so easy to transport and there's no fuss involved - just paper taped to board, sticks, an eraser, and my hands. Gotta love the ease -

So I like these small bushes that grow up on the bank of the water. I spent a few minutes trying to get information down and see what the values look like. There's nothing fancy about the sketch here, I take about 15 minutes to record the basics - scribbling information and only concerning myself with light versus dark.
This spot could be nice for a smaller work on canvas. I will likely return this weekend to work out an 8 x 10 sketch, maybe even a smaller 6 x 8 too. As these sizes are not too great I can figure things out in an hour and a half - before the light shifts and things change up to much.
With these smaller sizes I find it's even possible to set up an easel and sort of go between the two - because their size isn't too great. I'm mindful of how large I work when I go out and make sure it's something I can complete in a sitting. Of course I can return another day when conditions are similar to finish something incomplete.
Sometimes if things simply are not working on one panel, like an 8 x 10 for example, I switch to something smaller, a 6 x 8 to refresh and sort things out. I might wipe or scrap paint away on the 8 x 10 and begin again once things make sense. It works the majority of the time and I have a record to refer back to as I need it.

Bushes on Lake Allatoona, charcoal on 9 x 12 paper

Bushes on the water

Several days ago I went out and painted this little sunset on prepared panel. This means I cut and primed mat board before going out. An exacto knife, good and sharp, plus acrylic gesso - these make a nice surface for studies. They are easy to transport too because they're lightweight.
So this study was done in about 40 minutes, frankly after 15 the light completely shifts, but memory can serve us well. I have to rely at least a little on my memory, working back and forth - eyes on the subject matter more than on my canvas. It's a constant back and forth. Memory helps...but I work to let my tools to do the work necessary, letting them find the spot on the canvas as I'm looking at the scene. In truth, it seems this is when my memory works best. :)
Today I found this little study at the back of my studio, and spent an hour revisiting the moment and the light. The second painting shows an in studio study on 12 x 12 canvas. I decided to mute the color palette with the second painting - just to see...
A third is likely in order - there's still something missing for me. I'll work another day to find it.

6 x 8 Plein Air Sketch in oil from a week or so ago

This is a plein air study from 2014 - we were fortunate to visit Barcelona, Spain. It was warm but very nice. I felt the light on this day, and it was good....

8 x 10 Plein Air Study from 2014

As I'm posting sunsets - here's another and my painting for day 17 of Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge. I invite you to visit the site and look through works completed to date - the address is below. That's all for now. Thanks so much for stopping by...Peace and Health

Cottage at Sunset, 6 x 8 oil on linen panel

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Donna's Daily Works - I call these my Apple A Day Works - much like an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

Earlier I arranged a set up to complete a morning painting. Yesterday I prepared linen panels from mat board purchased at Dick Blick. Our store in Roswell, Georgia has a great clearance bin filled with various types of mat board. I often find great linen panels for a good price in these bins - these are the leftovers from framing. At my home studio, I cut them to size with a sharp exacto knife, give them a coat or two of gesso and let them dry. They're nice to paint on.
A link to Dick Blick

Morning Set Up for 16 September 2015

And here's the finished painting and my post for day 16 of the Leslie Saeta 30 in 30 challenge.
These are hour long paintings. I lay out my palette and get all things ready beforehand. Here I used alizarin crimson, terra rosa, ultramarine blue, cad yellow plus white. Once all the materials are ready, I can set a timer for 60 minutes and when it goes off I make myself walk away - all done. This is not always easy, and it's been an ongoing process for me. It's also something I have really come to appreciate because my initial block and overall painting has gotten faster. It's been helpful when I go out to paint too, since after an hour and a half the light typically shifts, and changes things up. I need to paint faster to get the basic information down quickly.
Outdoors I work to stop a painting at that hour and a half interval. I may return to continue my process on another day, when conditions are similar or I may begin a second painting, but after an hour and a half I move on. I do this because I've made too many poor decisions after that hour and a half point, only to ruin the fresh look of a painting.
Memory and reference photos can certainly help me, but these things only do me so much good. Working directly allows me to see better. I learn more about the local color and over time I get a faster block in because of that learning curve. I'm learning to make those rather crucial decisions with greater confidence, and these hour long paintings are helpful with that process. I've come to realize the value that comes with trusting my instincts - not second guessing myself...the truth is we often know more than we realize. I still have much to learn, but this hour long paintings have been a good exercise and they give me a better feeling about my capabilities. :)

That's all for today. Thanks so much for stopping by...Happy Painting!
Peace and Health -

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Donna's Daily Works or Apple A Day Works - akin to an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art. 

So I worked on several projects today, and became pretty involved. This said, I thought I'd post a work from the past few months, and share some of that process.
I collaborate with six other artists at Red Door Gallery on the Marietta Square in Historic Marietta, Georgia. Each year the square hosts an ArtWalk on the First Friday of each month, April through October. I'm preparing a work for that final show this week and hope to share some of that process in tomorrow's post.

April's theme was DIRT and I decided to continue my series devoted to Dance. The image below is charcoal on wood panel. I work these on the panel and finish with a non-yellowing polyurethane, so there is no need for glass. I cradle the works to give them added depth. Birch works great...I have a supplier, so I cut the wood to size and give it a few coats of Blick's artist gesso, using a large brush. This is a 12 x 29. 
The charcoal is vine and compressed, but vine is wonderful for the figure here because of the forgiving nature of the medium. Once a mark is made on these panels, it's very hard to go back or lift the charcoal. This one took me two attempts to get the affect I wanted. I love dance and Spanish Dance is not only beautiful and rich with movement, I find there's a real passionate exchange between those who dance and the audience.

Excel, 12 x 29 charcoal on prepared wood panel

Just for fun, and since the Chalkfest is coming up next month at the Marietta Cobb Museum, I thought I'd post this drawing of two girls from last year's event. I saw them sitting and drawing with chalk on the pavement - could not help but start a sketch. If you're interested in visiting the square during the Chalkfest and viewing some great art, I've attached information below.

Chalk Girls, ink on leftover paper


The 2015 Marietta Chalktoberfest features 45+ professional chalk artists creating patriotic works of art on the streets of historic Marietta Square. Additionally, there will be a craft beer festival, competition chalk section, concerts on the Square and much more on Saturday. On Sunday there will be a Kids on the Block activities and an Antique Car Show in addition to the professional chalk.
Saturday October 10, 2015 from 10 am – 5 pm and concert is 7 pm-9 pm.
Sunday October 11, 2015 from 11 am-5 pm.
Beer Festival tickets will go on sale August 1 – $35 for the first 500 tickets, $45 for the second 500 tickets and $50 at the door. Over 100 craft beers will be available for tasting. The rest of the festival is free to the public.
Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art
30 Atlanta Street
Marietta, GA.
More information:
For more information, please call 770-528-1444 or visit

This is not done today, but is on my shipping table. A plein air from last year - I do love water...

And here's my post for Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge, day 15. I call it Muddy Waters - done last week on a rainy day by the lake. This was a really fun and very quick demonstration just as our class was wrapping up.

Muddy Waters, oil on 5 x 7 canvas

Thanks for stopping by...I appreciate it. Peace and Health to all -

Monday, September 14, 2015

Donna's Daily Works or Apple A Day Works - akin to an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me learn and become more aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

I've posted this here before, but to remind myself...this blog will serve to share work, news and daily process; drawings and paintings. Thanks -

This morning I will take my husband to the airport for a two-week trip overseas. We are getting his things packed up - only two days home this time. Instead of getting a painting started, I'm looking at more framing ideas. I find it helpful to play around with the composition of a work - images below show a 6 x 12 demo for a charcoal class I do by the lake - they're a lot of fun. So I've cut a mat and am looking at ways I might crop the image.

Here is the full view -

Charcoal demo at Galts Ferry Park in Woodstock, Georgia  

For me, more of the land is nice

It's nice to look at things, composition and what is most vital or important to the work. When all is done, I'll likely keep the entire image for the framing, but I have cropped drawings to give more impact to a certain area, or focal point. Charcoal is lush with value and so I rely on this during the drawing and when framing a work.

About to head out to the International Terminal in Atlanta, but I've attached my daily painting for Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge below. I enjoy daily studies, preparing panels, choosing a palette, the starting, wiping away, beginning again, but mostly the doing...such a mixture of real time for contemplation and gotta get this done before things shift and change. :)
This is a good fishing spot and a wonderful painting location...Downstream. That's all for now - I very much appreciate you stopping by. Peace and Health

Downstream, 8 x 10 oil on canvas

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Donna's Apple A Day Works - akin to an apple a day helps to keep us in good health; a work a day helps me stay aware of the color, design and shape of my art.

Today I've been preparing work for a show at the end of the month, and trying to get quality photographs of two portraits; one for a publication and one in progress. I'm also looking at these antique irons as subject matter for a painting. I think they could be pretty interesting to figure out in terms of color theory. The two shown here could be a good first study later this evening.

Antique Irons my grandmother used in her house

I've included my first study of Matty below, the portrait I mention above that's in progress. This is a charcoal on about 20 x 24 size paper. Matty is three and has wonderfully rich eyes. It was my pleasure to sit with him and get to know what he likes to eat, and which toys are his favorite - trains, that does it for him. I understand - they are pretty special. So as I write this, my camera is upstairs charging and I hope to get good shots of the finished work this evening after dinner. This study of Matty will go into a chunky but simple black frame with black matting.

Matty, a study on - charcoal on 20 x 24 size paper

Hillary is my charcoal portrait that needs a good quality image for publication in Strokes of Genius 8, North Light Books Best of Drawing Series. I've been having trouble with my camera for a little while now, so I hope to get a least three good shots of this one. If not, I'll have to see about a loaner for a day.

Hillary, charcoal on 18 x 24 size paper
My post for Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge today features a small antique oil can. It goes with a turn of the century cast iron Singer sewing machine that belonged to my grandmother. Love that machine...and it still works great. That's all for now - thank you so much for stopping by. Peace and Health -

Oil Can, 5 x 7 oil on canvas