Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'm on the Cover of Pastel Journal!

My Painting 'Summer Reprise' on the cover of the May/June Issue of Pastel Journal
 I have to pinch myself to make sure it is real!  I was thrilled to get the news that my painting was chosen for the cover of the May/June issue of Pastel Journal.  It was icing on the cake.  I was already excited to have my wildflower paintings featured in an article and now the cover!  I can't wait to get my magazine in the mail!

I discovered a passion for painting the often overlooked 'weeds' as my husband calls them.  It is a subject that I am drawn to no matter where I am.  I always paint the 'big' view then settle down to find the wildflowers.  They speak to me.  I hope that you enjoy reading the article. If you don't get Pastel Journal (put it on your list!) you can purchase the issue here.

a peek at the article
 To celebrate the cover and article I have listed a new group of my wildflower paintings in my Etsy Shop.  I would like to offer my blog readers and collectors a 10% savings on any wildflower painting. Visit my Etsy shop here and use coupon code PJW 10

If you would like to see my process for painting wildflowers consider my pdf demo How to Paint Daisies. Click here for more information.

'Down in the Meadow'     9x12       pastel        $165 click here to purchase

'Into the Lace'         8x10      pastel   click here to purchase $145
I am honored to be asked to present two programs at IAPS 2015 June in Albuquerque. I will be doing a demo on How to Paint Wildflowers and a seminar on Art Blogging. Make plans to come to this fantastic convention!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Secret to Painting Wildflowers

'A Special Place'         8x10          pastel  on textured board         ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $145
What is the secret?  I admit that I don't have all the answers but I do know what has worked for me. The secret for painting wildflowers for me is that I paint them often and with passion.  Paint what you love. Paint your truth. I have heard this advice many times.  I've blogged about it recently. Figure out what it is you are drawn to. What makes your heart race? What compels you to capture it on canvas or paper? 

As much as I love painting landscapes and wide open spaces, I always return to the wildflower. Queen Anne's Lace is probably my favorite.  When I see them bobbing by the roadside my heart sings. When I paint them I try to paint them with the same excitement and passion. If you can paint something with passion and love than this will show in your work. Enjoy today's pictorial step by step demo and the tips I share for painting with passion. (be sure to click on the photo to see them larger)

My secret for painting any subject well:
  • Paint what you love. Sure, you need to stretch and paint other things to help you learn and grow as an artist. But always make time to return to your favorite subjects.
  • Paint what you know....or really get to know your favorite subject. Study it and paint it over and over. I can't tell you how many variations on this same field of Queen Anne's Lace I have painted. I vary the technique,color palette, composition....and with each painting I get to know the flower even better. I never tire of painting them because they move me
  • Plan and then paint with Passion!  When I paint a field of Queen Anne's Lace I start with a plan so  that when I paint I can paint with passion and just intuitively respond to my painting. I don't want anything to slow me down like choosing colors and making composition decisions. 
What subject makes your heart sing?  How many times have you painted it? The more you paint it, the more you will make it your own and your own unique style will emerge. I think I will go paint some more Queen Anne's Lace!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Taking Time to Cut Paper...The Key to Being a Better Artist

'Searching for Beauty'            5x7       plein air pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $50
 The desert is calling me.  I must listen and go.  It is time to cut paper.  If I want to be the best artist possible I need to put everything aside and travel. It is my paper cutting time.  I have been reading similar advice lately and a recent article by Jack White on sharpening one's axe really resonated with me.  The article was about the importance of taking time out to smell the roses or do whatever you need to to recharge...or sharpen your axe.  If you are constantly working without a break, you may get a lot done but the axe will be dull. How much easier it would be with a sharper axe. (read Jack White's post here)

So for me I remind myself to take a break every once in awhile and just cut paper or go for a walk, throw the ball to Heidi....little things to get up from the easel or computer.  Every once in awhile I need a bit more....a change of scenery. I need to travel. New sights, smells, sounds....something to refresh my spirit.  I may paint like a madwoman on a trip but it is different. It is all new.

I am fortunate to have many special artist friends. They love to travel as much as I do. I will be visiting one such friend in Arizona along with two other artist friends. I can't wait.  We will be doing a lot of axe sharpening and paper cutting!

My Southwest Inspiration Book

 I made a little inspiration book for the trip. I have pasted in pictures of SW art that inspires me along with some thoughts. There is plenty of room for notes and sketches.  I'll share more about the book after the trip. I do plan on blogging from the road if internet and ipad cooperate.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Easter I was Famous

'Time for Spring'         6x6       pastel      ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $45

'Time for Change'          6x6        pastel      $45

A Story from the Archives:  I was 13 years old and on top of the world.  I had just opened up the local newspaper to check on the winners of the egg decorating contest.  The headlines shouted "Sisters tie for 1st Place in egg contest" That would be me!!!  And ........me.  Oops!  You see I couldn't decide which of my egg designs I liked best so I entered both of them with one in my sister's name.  I didn't think either one would win so it was a surprise to read that both tied for first place!  

No my parents didn't know I used my sister's name to enter and of course looking back it wasn't the right thing to do. But at the time it seemed like the best way to enter both of my eggs. Was my sister upset?  No, I shared my prizes with her!  But really the best prize for a 13 year old budding artist was to have my work published in the newspaper!

The contest winners announced!

These days I still like to paint eggs only I put them in nests and use pastels!  Today's nest paintings are done on Strathmore Black Artagain paper and are 6x6.

I have three more nest paintings on auction at DailyPaintworks.com ending soon! See them here 

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Useful Tip for Packing Plein Air Gear

'Afternoon at the Pond'              8x10           pastel          ©Karen Margulis
It's a work in progress.  My plein air set up undergoes adjustments every time I use it. I am always trying to come up with ways to streamline and manage my supplies.  I have already downsized my pastels by switching to the Gogh Box. This box is great but like any box or easel you choose you are still bound to have a lot of extra little things.  Things that you need!   Clips and rubberbands and tape. Sketchbook, business cards, underpainting supplies, wipes....the list goes on.

I needed a way to keep up with the extra stuff....I found the perfect answer...little stuff sacks.

My Gogh Box set up with my pastels

The box all packed and ready to travel
These little nylon drawstring bags are perfect to corral all of the little things I need. It makes packing my box or backpack easy. Best of all it makes set up quick and easy. Before I discovered these little bags I would have to find a place to keep the little things I needed. I wanted them handy but not in my way. I would have to unload them from the box....but had no where to put them! 
With the stuff sacks, not only is everything contained,  I can even hang the bags from my tripod while I paint so that they are in reach. The photos below show the supplies I am taking.

business cards, sketchbook, microfiber towel,mini bungees and rubber bands 

Bankers clips and bulldog clips needed to set up backing board and attach paper

underpainting supplies and extra rubberbands will stay in my backpack until needed
I will be taking this set up on my painting trip to Arizona next week. Having my supplies organized and contained and not lost in the bottom of my backpack will make painting much more enjoyable!

Today's painting is 8x10 on Multimedia Artboard panel. I began with a drawing with pastel pencil which I sealed with clear gesso. I then did a watercolor underpainting over the dry gesso before adding pastel.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Musing of the Week....What Should You Paint?

'In My Nantucket Dreams'             8x10           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $125 click here

 Paint What You Love.  You have heard it before. It is great advice.  When you paint the things you are passionate about you will usually do your best work. Sometimes we paint something because it seems easy or it is what the class is working on. Sometimes we choose a subject because we want to learn from it. We do need to take time occasionally to stray from our true love.

I believe it is OK to stray. Trying another subject will stretch us. We can learn from it.  But it can also lead to frustration. If our hearts aren't  in the subject it often shows in our paintings.  We are missing that spark...that illusive thing that happens when we are truly excited and moved by the subject. We may not have the same success that you have with our true love. We just have to remember that we need to visit home every once in awhile.

 Landscapes are my passion....my true love. I happen to be drawn to many kinds of landscapes but most of them have something to do with wide open spaces....deserts, beaches and marshes and meadows. I am happiest when I can see the sky!  Knowing what ignites the fire helps me paint better.  I can learn from painting other subjects but I won't allow myself to get frustrated when I don't have success with them.  I learn what I can and then come back to painting what I am truly passionate about. 

What is your passion? Not sure?  I will have more on this topic in a future post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a Marsh Painting Better

'Home'              11x14             pastel           ©Karen Margulis
 We could smell the salty air mixed with the unmistakeable smell of low tide.  Ahhhh, we felt our spirits lift as we rolled down the car windows and breathed in deeply. We knew we were close.  It was time to go on the lookout for the whitebirds.  That's what we call egrets of any kind.  We are always a little premature with our sightings though. Calling out "White Bird!" only to discover it is a white plastic bag hung up on a bush.   "It's only a bag bird."  Such is the conversation on a road trip to the marsh.

What is a marsh without birds? A beautiful landscape to be sure. But part of what makes a marsh so special is the life it contains. Birds, crabs, fish....they all add to the sights and sounds of the wetlands.  I love to paint the marsh but it occurred to me that I rarely include any signs of life. My marshes are deserted. They need a hint of this hidden world.

So today after finishing this march painting I decided to add some life. I needed a white bird or some kind of egret or heron. But how should I go about it?

My painting with a few of my bird photos for review

What kind of bird should I paint?  Where should he go?  I decided I wanted my bird to be hidden in the grasses perhaps somewhere in the foreground. I took out a few of my own bird photos. Since I print them out as small contact sheet size photos it was easy to line them up and visualize how they might look.  I knew I didn't want my bird to be too detailed....just a hint.

I chose to put in a snowy egret....my personal favorite. I mage a small mark of pale blue for the shadow side of my snowy and then a mark of a pale yellow (almost white) for the sunlit side. I use a small piece of Girault pastel to paint the orange and black beak. I painted in some more grasses to hide him better.

close up of my white bird!

This is the marsh I know and love! I think I like a little bit of life in my landscapes!

What about you? Do you paint only pure landscapes or do you like to add signs of life...either animal or manmade? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Three Easy Steps to Choosing Pastels for Plein Air

'Along the Rio Grande'              5x7              pastel         ©Karen Margulis
Make it Work. That is my motto when it comes to downsizing my pastels for plein air. It's Tim Gunn's catchphrase for his fashion designers but it applies nicely to painting.  Once I realized I didn't need every pastel in my box for a plein air trip it literally lifted a huge load off my shoulders. I can take just enough pastels to fit in whatever travel box I am using. If I don't have the "right" pastel I will just have to make it work!

I do have a method I follow when packing for a plein air trip. It helps ensure that I have a good selection of pastels. It's as easy as 1-2-3. Follow along as I pack for my next great adventure...a painting trip next week with artist friends in Phoenix AZ.

making a list and checking it twice...step 2
Step 1:  Choose your Box.  I have a backpack size Heilman box which I love. I only bring it to longer workshops and classes. Usually when  I travel with pastels I prefer a smaller set up. My favorite box is Stan Sperlak's Gogh Box (see my review here)  This is a small box that holds everything you need to paint and mounts on a tripod.  There is room for a small box of pastels, paper, backing board.  For this trip I am bringing my Great American Plein Air half stick set. The box is very sturdy and fits in the Gogh Box perfectly.

 I usually cram my pastels into a cardboard box but I tripped over my tripod with  Gogh Box while it was closed and the box along with the cardboard box of pastels crashed to the floor shattering the box of pastels. I am going to test out this Great American box on this trip.

I rigged the Gogh Box to hold a small box of extras plus a working palette tray

STEP 2:  Choose Your Pastels. The formula is to have a dark, middle and light value of each color. You don't need a full stick of each. Smaller pieces are fine. I won't paint larger than 8x10 so small pieces of pastels will work.  I make a chart as I go through my pastels and mark off when I find the right color and value. I make sure I have a nice rich dark...My Terry Ludwig eggplant and a beautiful light value cloud pastel. I also consider the painting location and gear my color choices to the subjects I will paint.  This step takes time!

STEP 3: Test out Your Selections. Once I have my choices in the box I find a reference for the location I will visit and try a sample painting. I pulled a few of my Arizona and New Mexico photos to try out my color choices. The more quick studies you can do the more you will be able to tweak your choices. So far I am happy with my choices. I did the two paintings in this post with my selection. I will try a few more and then.....if I don't have it I will remind myself to Make it Work!

'Come to the Desert'            5x7             pastel     $45 
More plein air and packing tips coming this week!  Top painting is on Pastelmat paper and the bottom painting is on Uart that I toned warm gray.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Pastel Demo....Spring Landscape on Textured Board

'Forsythia Woods'             8x10           pastel              ©Karen Margulis
Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Painting has something in common with forsythia. It is pure joy. I enjoyed painting today's demo. I hope you enjoy seeing  my process. I am working today on a textured board. It is an 8x10 piece of gatorboard that I applied a pumice and gesso mix in random brushstrokes. The mixture was tone with yellow liquid acrylic paint. I love working on this surface and I need to make some more soon!

I begin by choosing the pastels I will use for the painting and lining them up in my working tray. I then do a loose drawing with compresses charcoal.

For the next step I block in the dark shapes using dark purples and greens. I then block in the distant foliage and trees with some muted pinks and greens.

Next I block in the shadow shapes on the path and grass. I reinforce the shapes of the tree trunks with the charcoal. I want to make sure they are interesting shapes and have a varied spacing between them.

Time to block in the sky. I choose a pale warm blue and use this sky color to break up the tree shapes.

 In these two photos I am working on the grasses and path. I have also put in some of the thinner branches.

Now I am working on the last layers.  I add some bright green to the sunlit areas in the grass. I also start to develop the big forsythia bush in the foreground.  I want it to appear unruly and textured.  The texture of the prepared surface helps. I want more though. I spray it a couple of times with fixative and add more layers of yellow pastel.

Finally I add some highlights to the trees and some more branches. I then took a very soft Schminke pastel and added the brightest yellows to the forsythia bush. Click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the texture of the board up close.