Oil Painting 101

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My interpretation of Ghost Ranch, Butte. 18×24, Oil on Canvas. Palette Knives.

When  I was a young girl, around 8 years old, my parents treated me to weekly painting lessons.  In Bayonne, NJ, the name of the game was Miriam Brown.  She taught children and adults how to paint.  Following the Walter Foster painting books well known in the day, we picked a painting of his to copy.  At the time, that was the best way to begin the journey, get familiar with the paints (and the smell), and work out some details with brushes.

I put painting aside for many years.  I studied art in college, with an emphasis on jewelry, crafts, and then followed up with a masters degree in Art Education and fiber, weaving tapestry for many years. After an amazing career as an Art Teacher at Bayonne High School in NJ, I moved to Colorado to be closer to Navajo and Pueblo art, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon and a host of muses.

As a sweet, generous, gift, a friend of mine treated me to Oil Painting lessons at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  Georgia Okeeffe country.  A week of immersion in oils jump started my passion for painting once again.  I learned plein-air (outdoor in natural light) painting from  Michelle Chrisman,   Michelle describes herself as a Contemporary Colorist; the reason I want to learn from her.  Colorist’s give me permission to love color.  Purple shadows, pink skies, coral colored red rock.  Michelle’s work can be seen on her website and at the Joe Wade Gallery in Santa Fe.

Here’s an example of Michelle’s painting style.  I love the loose color, and forms.  I am inspired by her quick strokes of palette knives and the shadow and light she captures.

Michelle Chrisman- Ghost Ranch Plein Air

I met up with Michelle at Ghost Ranch once again, over the Thanksgiving weekend. We both set up easels and painted the buttes of Box Canyon at the Ranch. She’s a wild thang.

Michelle teaches the “limited” palette.  Color mixing has become a real joy and I use the palette knife to mix.  A limited palette consists of these colors:

  • White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue

All other colors are mixed by combining those hues.  And we added Res-en-gel to speed up drying of the oils.  I don’t use mediums in the studio as I like to work a bit slower and to have the luxury of the slow drying time of oils.

I’ve added a few other colors to my palette too:

  • Indian Yellow
  • Cobalt Blue

The use of the palette knife and heavy application of paints means that I go through lots of paint.  In some cases I buy Dick Blick brand, but mostly use Winsor Newton or Daniel Smith.  I recently bought a palette box and installed glass in the bottom of it, I love this system and although at times I use a disposable palette, it’s too small for mixing from a limited palette of colors. The larger palette gives me plenty of room for my “puddles” of the mother colors, purple and orange.  A box cutter helps to clean the palette, and I save my piles of color for another session.

Zion Majesty

I call this painting Zion Majesty. It began as a small plein-air painting (sketch) and is close to completion as a studio iteration. 20×24 Oil with Palette Knives.

A pochade box is on my wish list, but for now I’m using a french style easel in the field.  In the studio I have a large easel as I like to paint 20×24 or larger. For plein-air,  Guerrilla painter makes a sweet oil painting drying box and carrying case, so much better than trying to get paintings home in my car…wet.  You can only imagine what my car looked like after two weeks of painting outdoors!  Pizza boxes work for storing wet paintings too! Get the wet painting carrier.  I have the 11×14, and it holds both panels and stretched canvas.  Next purchase, the 12×16 size.

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This is the first iteration of a studio painting inspired by the Bluffs of Utah. I took a digital photo and used photoshop to clone in some trees at the bottom to see how they would work for me.  Some painters use a mirror to look at their in progress works.  

This is the next iteration.  I really love big, bold color.

This is a detail of the latest iteration. I really love big, bold color and the textures of the palette knife.

5 Steps to Prepare for Your next Photography Adventure

5 Steps to Prepare for Your Next Photography Adventure

Preparation for travel and photography:

  1. Get Inspired
  2. Choose a location
  3. Research online
  4. Make reservations
  5. Prepare camera gear
  6. Get out and STAY out.

Get Inspired.

I love looking at great art and great photography; I visit galleries, museums, and “follow” artists online.  For this week’s travel, to Arizona, my main inspiration is to see the Dale Chihuly Gardens and Glass exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.

A friend of mine visited the Chihuly exhibition and these are some of her beautiful images.

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More Inspiration

Photography by Jody Forster

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All Jody Forster images are screenshots from her work at Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe. ©Jody Forster

All Jody Forster images are screenshots from her work at Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe. ©Jody Forster

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Choose a location: Research, Make Reservations

For this trip to Arizona, I chose to camp at the Lost Dutchman State Park.  Located near Apache Junction, AZ in the Superstition Mountains, this location was reviewed by the Wheeling It blog I follow.  Nina from “Wheeling It” is a full-time blogger and helpful with her campground reviews and also posts wonderful photos.  Photographing the Southwest, by Laurent Martres, is a great resource too for “right time, right place” photo locations in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. In Volume 2, there are a few suggestions for photography at the Lost Dutchman.

Past photography excursions to Southern Arizona have included Saguaro National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and lots of trips to Sedona, Phoenix and Tucson.

Prepare Camera Gear

I recently sent my cameras in to Nikon for firmware updates and sensor cleaning.  I am camping at a location that will allow me nightly battery charging.  My gear will include:

  1. Nikon D300
  2. Nikon D5300 (brand spanking new), no, it’s not full-frame, that purchase is in the near future.
  3. Nikon 16-85 lens
  4. Nikon 15-35 lens
  5. Nikon 55-300 lens
  6. Nikon flash
  7. iPad with 32GB
  8. iPhone 5
  9. Rav Power to extend storage on my iPad to 64GB and charge my phone.
  10. Tripod
  11. Monopod
  12. Reading materials on my iPad (kindle books)
  13. Photographing the Southwest by Laurent Martres

Get out and STAY out

My motto.  So until I’m full time retired, I create long weekends.  The drive from Durango to the Lost Dutchman is 7.5 hours so I’m camping one night at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and will enjoy 1/2 day of photography at the Canyons. I called the Navajo Nation Parks service and checked on the campground for open sites.  The ranger was helpful and told me there’s plenty of room these days.

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Next adventure:  Chasing the Light in Monument Valley. I’m teaching a photo workshop from April 28 through May 1st, based in Bluff Utah and Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley.


Today’s Inspiration

I am often inspired by the work of photographers as well as painters; Kit Lynch from Pilar, New Mexico is one such painter.  I love her use of color, texture and fun.  Her bio link.

Artists go through several transitions in their artistic life if they are open to pushing the envelope on their inner guidance. I am going through the fourth of such phases and it is such an exciting and alive process.

©Kit Lynch

Creating the Valle Vidal ©Kit Lynch

©Kit Lynch

Cottonwood River Bend ©Kit Lynch

I love Kit’s use of color and brushstrokes, and of course, I love her name.

©Kit Lynch

Valley Embrace ©Kit Lynch

Diptych, Oil on canvas, ©Kit Lynch

Take Me, I’m yours.Diptych, Oil on canvas, ©Kit Lynch

Today’s Inspiration: Nelson Mandela by Alyssa Arianne Graves

My friend Alyssa is an amazing woman and painter.  Inspired by his life and moved by the recent death of Nelson Mandela, she painted this image.


11th Commandment: Forgiveness. Nelson Mandela by © Alyssa Ariane Graves.

” I was deeply effected by Nelson Mandela’s death. He walked the walk. So many of us strive for his grace in our humble lives. I’ve known I wanted to honor him in some way, and the other night the perfect opportunity was presented as I was powerfully inspired by U2’s live performance of “Ordinary Love” on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show. It is an extraordinary gift they’ve created for the new movie, “Mandela: A Long walk to Freedom.” The song and message within captures the essence of what I believe we will align with with for our true happiness. All of us. Regardless of race, creed, or status. So, embedded with the message of “ordinary love,” this portrait of the Nelson Mandela came pouring through. I created it using only the colors of the South African Flag.”

Art on the Brix

Alyssa Ariane Graves is the owner and principal instructor at Art on the Brix, in Golden Colorado, where anyone can “unleash their inner artist amidst friends, family and co-workers”.

Enter these Photography Contests

Should We Pay to Enter Photo Contests?

Our local galleries advertise a call for entries to about four exhibitions per year.  The cost is usually around $30. for up to three entries.  I pay for the entries whether my work is chosen for exhibition or not.

The same is true for online submissions to contests.  While some are free, most online exhibitions charge a fee for entry.  Much of the time, we’re helping the online website continue to prosper, sometimes we’re paying for a juror, and sometimes if I see a juror who I would LOVE to see my photos I will enter a contest just for that reason.

Here are a few contests I ran into this morning.  And their costs and deadlines.  Additionally, some of the contests are subject specific or have a theme.

Click on the image above to link to the PictureCompete website.

Click on the image above to link to the PictureCompete website.

The Picture Compete contests, Aging, My Home, and Childhood are closed and past deadline, but you can sign up to be informed of 2014 contests.

I find it helpful to see what the judges have selected in the past as winning images.



TeraBella Media, enter contests by clicking the above image.

Deadline: March 13, 2014 TeraBella Media, enter contests by clicking the above image.

And here’s a link to the Photo Contest Directory, where you can troll through their contests and choose the right one for you. http://www.thephotocontestdirectory.com

And by googling online photo contests, I found this link.

Have you found some cool contests to enter, nice prizes?

Let me know. kit@kitfrost.com

Contest Winners 2014

I see a lot of contests online, and submit images when I feel my work is appropriate.  I received a link to these winners from Photography Network and the Women’s Photography group on Linked In.

What do you think about the winning images?  Would you agree with the judges?

TBM Photography Network, contest winners.