Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Check out My DVD

My DVD, Master Disaster 5 Ways to Rescue Desperate Watercolors, is now available on ArtistsNetwork.TV. You can view the first section for free here. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fake Reality

Here is a new painting that I've been trying to get under control from quite a while. When the imagination goes wild, design is crucial. But I can't be hindered by it. Thus I needed to calm this piece down and correct it's balance with the help of Kathy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

ISAP gives me a prize!

I found out today that Maxine Masterfield gave me a prize (6th place) in the ISAP Online International Open Exhibition 2009. Being my first prolonged foray into acrylic painting--and my first into this heavy texture that is capturing my eye--I am thrilled. Thank you Maxine, where ever you are.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Heavy Texture and "Realism"

I've been trying to create paintings with my new-to-me texture on a smaller scale. These are my Square Footers, 12 x 12. In the first, I tried to loose my new dependence on outlining, but the work ends up more realistic than I had planned. The second paintings is a definite extension of my recent work--on a more common topic, flowers. What do you think?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Painting Career

Friends and I have been discussing our various goals in art and life. Then Ken sent me this. Cut out the third paragraph and pin it on your bulletin boards.

The Great Wave, by Hokusai

Hokusai (1760-1849)
Katsushika Hokusai, Japan's best known artist, is ironically Japan's least Japanese artist. Japan's best known woodblock print, The Great Wave, is very un-Japanese. Welcome to the artist often known as Hokusai.

Hokusai (1760-1849) lived during the Tokugawa period (1600 to 1867). In a Japan of traditional Confucian values and feudal regimentation, Hokusai was a thoroughly Bohemian artist: cocky, quarrelsome, restless, aggressive, and sensational. He fought with his teachers and was often thrown out of art schools. As a stubborn artistic genius, he was single-mindedly obsessed with art. Hokusai left over 30,000 works, including silk paintings, woodblock prints, picture books, manga, travel illustrations, erotic illustrations, paintings, and sketches. Some of his paintings were public spectacles which measured over 200 sq. meters (2,000 sq. feet.) He didn't care much for being sensible or social respect; he signed one of his last works as "The Art-Crazy Old Man". In his 89 years, Hokusai changed his name some thirty times (Hokusai wasn't his real name) and lived in at least ninety homes. We laugh and recognize him as an artist, but wait, that's because we see him as a Western artist, long before the West arrived in Japan.

"From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. but all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing." -- Hokusai

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Rabbit Hole

I've been thinking about a comment I heard last week. Why just look down that rabbit hole and dream of what might be possible. Jump down the rabbit hole and experience being an artist, Alice. (Is there a rabbit hole painting in my near future?)

With the down economy, take advantage of these months to explore ourselves as painters. This is a unique time (hopefully). We need not spend time painting for someone else's decor. Paint for ourselves. Explore that rabbit hole.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I re-read the Julia/Julie book in preparation for seeing the movie. Both are terrific. Meryl Streep IS Julia Child. This disappointed me a little, Streep seems like such a fun person, I wanted to see her playing the part.

I've been trying to equate her acting to painting. I think that a method actor such as her becomes Julia Child, and that is equivalent to realistic painting. A character actor, say Goldie Hawn, always plays some version of herself. This might be like putting yourselves into your paintings. Does that make me the Sandra Bullock of paintings? ;-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Escher and Me

"Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible." M. C. Escher This quote that really reflects my passion for painting.

Making the impossible possible is the thrust of my style, my book, Master Disaster, my DVD and my workshops. Developed from notes on how I managed to finish dozens of paintings, I review my book when finishing each and every painting. And I do make the impossible possible!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Watercolor Rules

I wish the title of this post meant that watercolor RULES! But I'm afraid that this is just another rant on the rules and restrictions that some organizations feel are necessary to maintain the status quo.

I read that there were 613 commandments in the Old Testament, and about one third of them were "thou shalt nots." So I counted up the commandments in the TWSA prospectus that I was about to throw out and there are 29 commandments, 14 of them are "thou shalt nots." They actually do have a ways to go. :-)Just give them time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance

I just got back from teaching a wonderful workshop for the West Virginia Watercolor Society. The classes enthusiasm over making a "flip book" astounded me. They are sure to continue their quest for the perfect samples of color and design strategies. These DO take your paintings to a new level.

Then we discussed content. This was new to some of the class, and exciting to all. How do you put more of yourself into a painting? How do you get some ideas peculating in what used to be "just a pretty picture?"

While this concept may have been new to painting for some artists, they understand content when it applies to other forms of art.

The last night my wonderful hosts and I watched "So You Think you can Dance" (Is that the title? I'm not a TV watcher.) Anyway, the criticism of the dancers was light and nice, but it centered around two things. Evan evoked the style of Fred Astair--sweet and old-fashioned--like most of our paintings. He and his partner found it hard to really express themselves with this style. In painting we might say that the technique dominated the painting. And the artists personality and emotions couldn't show through.

While struggling with content in our paintings these quandaries that the dancers faced was obvious to average people. The judges even complimented one corriographer for daring to create a "conceptual" piece for the competition so near it's end. Another corrieographer created a dance that he thought would be "Popular" with the voting audience. I don't know the results of the voting. did Evan's popular work win? Please let me know.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I had a great time teaching in Waynesville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks ago and staying with David and Nancy looking at Waynesville Mountain from every window. This mountain, combined with watching two girls playing freely on a lawn, brought together my recent experiences.

This painting is untitled as of now. (I have 1135 painting titles in my computer--so there is no excuse for this.)It is acrylic 30 x 40.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This Way

Having returned to my "Irrational Perspective Houses" of my past, I rummaged around in my memory for a watercolor that I had done of my childhood self with my bike. What fun we had careening down hills and riding far out into the country-side. I think that I'm on my way to a series called "Free-range Children."

I have to give credit to a book by that name for putting into words (and into my mind) the lifestyle we enjoyed. According to the author, today's crime statistics are about what they were in the 1950's. The difference seems to be the 24 hour news cycle of today versus the half-hour with Walter Cronkite back then. Only now we worry about free-range chickens.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

That Way

Here is my latest. "That Way," 36 x 36 Acrylic on canvas.
I've had a ball with my big paintings. They move along fast and create mini surprises as I layer color over color. Enlarge this image and see what I mean.

Photographing them, though, has been a challenge. I have a Cannon Power Shot G9 and tons of experience shooting slides. But how to light big paintings,and not get way too yellow a cast to these works?

If I set the camera on Program, go to the Auto White Balance option, and then follow the directions to color correct using my old gray card from my slide days, I ended up with correct color!! And the camera is supposed to remember this setting. It also automatically bracketed my shots, but this probably isn't necessary.

I was also pleased to be accepted into the 2009 San Diego Watercolor Society's national show with my houses on stilts, and am currently in the Transparent Watercolor Society of America's national.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Going for it Big Time

Finally I've been able to go big! 30 x 40 canvases are now easy to manage with some basics from Jane Filer's approach toward underpainting. My new ventilation system makes an hour or two in front of a canvas safe for me. So I am off and running--and running up my paint bill.

Here is a stab at painting my old waterfall sketches in acrylic while taking advantage of the fun things that I do with my house paintings.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


'Tis the season for workshops, whether I'm teaching one, or for the first time in a decade, taking one. I just got back from a long, fabulous weekend with Jane Filer on North Carolina's coast. You will see changes in my art for sure from that experience. Bigger, texture and acrylics.

Here I am giving demo at the Kanuga Watermedia Workshops a few weeks ago (I'll be teaching there next March). The photo was taken my an Internet friend of mine, Donna Zagotta, whom I met for the first time there. Audacious is my middle name. May it be yours too.

See you all at my Blue Ridge Watermedia Workshop, In Waynesville, North Carolina, June 15-18. Call Nancy Belvins at 828 246-0237 for details.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Painting "Out"

I just checked my friend Myrna's blog and she had a couple of photos of her painting in Spain, so here is how I managed on the streets of Shanghai. I learned to hold all of my stuff and still get a sketch/painting done in 20 minutes. The Chinese people were fascinated, reassuring and friendly.

Monday, March 30, 2009

China Town in Shanghai

Hello artist friends, my travel companions and my new Chinese friend, Tinker Bell,

I have just survived getting all of my sketches up on my web site Look for CHINA in the fourth box down on my home page. Enjoy--and let me know if something doesn't work. I'm an artist, not a computer nerd.


Friday, March 27, 2009


We are back. China was wonderful, interesting and educational. I highly recommend going. Hello out there to my fellow travellers.

I was on an ordinary tour with minutes to paint here and there, but I still had a breakthrough. I managed to fit all of my supplies into a zip-lock bag. That was a revelation. Since there were so many people around that I couldn't sit down, I then I found that I could hold all that stuff in one hand and still paint with the other.

A painting tip that I'd lit to share now is my sketchbook. With so many variables that you have to deal with when painting out, it is best to use the paper that you always use. One less variable. So I take Arches paper to Staples (and other such stores) and have 6 pages bound together for a few bucks. Cut the paper any size and shape that you like. 

Why only six pages, though? These sketch books become very valuable as they fill. If you lost one, you don't want it to have all of your sketches in it. When I pack up to go home, I place different sketchbooks in different suitcases in case a bag is lost.

People who buy the original sketches get them with the holes punched in the top. I recommend that they frame them up so that the holes show. This guarantees that they were done on location.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

China Here We Come!

I am off to China, and can hardly wait to see what I'll come back with and how this will affect my art. I have done some wonderful sketches on painting trips (like the one pictured here of Italy), but this is a regular tour with my sister, her husband and my husband. We will see if I can get the kind of work done that I'd like to do. 

I did buy a fishing vest with lots of pockets that holds my art stuff. I really wanted this for hiking around North Carolina, but will give it it's first try in China.

Wish me luck.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Content--Recording Today's World

After seeing one of Jane Filer's paintings in an Asheville, NC gallery, I began wondering what I could do with her images of pillars. So this painting began with the notion that the pillars of society are failing us. Drawing my center house on those pillars was exhilarating. But building the neighborhood around him became the ultimate challenge for my crazy brain. What do you see? Where was I going with these ideas? How can you make ideas into images?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Business Plan for the Mature Artists ;-)

Sue Smith has posted a small book on Lulu that might be of help and interest to us artists of advancing age. "Ancient Wisdom: Emerging Artists, A Business Plan for the Mature Artist." Check it out.  

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fracturing with a New Subject

After working with texture in the past two florals, I wanted to try those techniques with another subject. 

I was the art critic for a local paper in my past home of Rockford, IL.  Here I worked with this young artist on several occasions--and painted him 3 or 4 times in styles from Manga to sloppy realism. 

This painting was developed on the plaid in his jacket. Boxiness being my favorite way of doodling, the sharpened back end of my paint brush provided just the right tool.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Wonders of Packing Tape, Part 2

Here is my second pass at fracturing a floral using my packing tape. I was never one to explore texture--especially if it meant damaging my paper. Now I just feel the need to move on and do something different. 

Here I have relied on sharpening the end of a paint brush in my pencil sharpener, dipping it in purple paint and using that to draw with. There are some dots of oil pastel in the lower right and some shaved watercolor pencil in other places.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wonders of Packing Tape

Those of you who have read my book or taken one of my workshops know the wonders of packing tape as an essential art supply--and about the cheapest one around. I use two inch wide, clear tape for several purposes, but here I am using it to fracture my painting. 

It has been too cold to paint in my studio, so I grabbed my watercolors and moved upstairs to a bedroom. Painting neat, clean and small, I decided it was time to try fracturing to get more ideas into a smaller space. 

Simply dividing my paper with tape and painting this bouquet in various ways on each side of the tape created a new look.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Testing Various Surfaces

These past months I have been working on a variety of canvases, Yupo, and boards. What am I looking for? An opportunity to appreciate opaque paints. For years, actually decades, I have enjoyed the pure stained-glass look of clear watercolor, and I thought of opacity as a crutch for corrections. But opaque areas are really another dimension in the continuum of paint surfaces. 

In this piece, "Yellow Slippers" 12 x 12, I'm trying out my new linen canvas. It both acts as a mid-tone and neutralizes the first layers of acrylic paint. Brighter areas take a second or third application to bring up. Pattern is also a new and exciting addition to my repertoire. You never stop learning and experimenting when you are an artist. Just keep on painting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vandalizing Arches

Here is the second in my graffiti series. While I'm have great fun "vandalizing" my Arches paper, my friends' reactions to this piece cover the whole spectrum--from being afraid of clowns to discussions on Alfred E. Newman. (He is more distracting than I thought that he'd be.) And some folks LOVED the piece. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sketching a la

This wonderful little accordion sketchbook was a gift from Becky Pelley when I moved from Rockford, IL, and the perfect surface for drawing a la It started out as a wave pattern and quickly migrated into an underground home for some little beast. It may turn into a bunny book for my grandson. Doodling is always a great way to loosen up that creative energy. How do you loosen up?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Art and Poetry

Bev Adams from the Cazenovia Watercolor Society surprised me with this poem at the end of our workshop. Thank you Bev, I am really honored. The slide show following this post is from that great workshop. Can I interest your group in one?


Susan Tregay 
Has a wonderful way
Of making a workshop fun.
We tape and we mop
Anything that's a flop
Then marvel at what we have done.
She stresses CONtent
And won't be conTENT
Till we are expressing our passion.
Says she, be unique,
Develop technique
So your paintings are not purely fashion.

Jasper Johns brought our Susan
Out of  confusion
And he changed her art life forever.
He said  don't relax
Let your painting climax
At the end of a threefold endeavor.

Sue pushes brainstorming
For ideas a-forming
She herself  has a brain that is quirky.
Though her houses are cockeyed,
Her perspective quite lopside,
Still, she rarely turns out a turkey. 

For pupils perplexed
About what to do next
She shouts loud and clear  "Make it darker"
Apply lots of paint,
Don't be what you ain't
And then make it even more darker. 
(apologies to my English teachers.)

Can bring elation
Sayeth Susan, our woman wise
Step by step
Through goals she swept
Until she reached the prize. 

Now we offer our thanks
You've filled our art banks
And we each have a flip book to treasure.
You helped us define
What is known as design
And you've  given us very full measure.

Thank you, thank you, Susan, for a fun
and instructive four days.
And thank you for teaching us that "nice" is not enough.       

Cazenovia Watercolor Society Workshop
May 5 to 8   2008  

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finish that Painting with punch and Pizzaz! Learn THE PLAN. Sign up for a workshop for your group.