Baby Chicks, Oil Painting, & Thoughts on Being Creative

Hello creative Friends!

I hope today finds you well and happy. This week has been a little crazy around here.

We hatched our first batch of baby chicks for the year, and though we are not new to the process, it’s still a little nerve-wracking every time we set eggs.

We also tried out a new incubator which added to the drama. Would it turn the eggs properly? Would it keep the eggs at the proper temperature? Too hot? Too cold? Humid enough? Not humid enough?

To us a new hatch usually means interrupted sleep, hyper-vigilance over the incubator, witnessing the first pip, and the occasional rescue of a shrink-wrapped chick… Get the picture?

Think “maternal instincts on steroids”!

PHEW!

I am delighted to report that as of this morning we have added 9 little peepers to our menagerie!

So CUTE!!!

I don’t know about you, but when I have too many irons in the fire, I tend to lose my creative energy!

But now that the chicks have been moved to the brooder and are settling in, I was able to spend some time in the studio experimenting with water mixable oils.

Being more familiar with pastel and watercolor painting, I decided to take it slowly. For me, that means COLOR MIXING.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

(Color swatches with a black check next to them are the closest to matching the paint sample.)

I decided to start by gathering paint chips from my local hardware and big box stores. If you try this exercise, be sure to pick a variety of chips to include the major color families (hue), as well as lighter and darker versions of each color (value), and purer vs. grayer versions of each color (intensity). The best part is that they are FREE!

Next, using a limited palette of titanium white, permanent yellow light, ultramarine blue, permanent alizarin crimson, and burnt umber, I worked to match each paint chip’s hue, value, and intensity.

Essentially, I wanted to see if I could get close to mixing most colors from just these five.

Why?

Because it would be less confusing at first and it would teach me not only the possibilities, but also the limitations of a primary palette. (A primary palette is one consisting of a single yellow, blue, and red. White is for tinting and the burnt umber is for creating shades.)

Now, I knew going in that I would eventually be using a split primary palette (one with a warm and cool version of each primary color) like I use when I am painting in watercolor, but like I said, I needed this to be less confusing at first. 🙂

So looking at the pics above, these 4 chips were mixed using the colors of my primary palette. I did lots of these matching exercises, and I have to say it was fun in almost a meditative way.

It was also very enlightening because eventually I came across colors I just couldn’t match using this palette of colors.

  • That’s when I added in a warmer red (Pyrrol red, Royal Talens’ Cobra brand).
  • I also switched out burnt umber for burnt sienna (more orangey and just as capable of giving me a dark value when mixed with the ultramarine.)
  • So far, the permanent yellow light (Cobra brand) is working for all my warm and cool mixes.
  • I am also trying out adding in titanium buff when I don’t want my color to be lightened AND cooled like it would be using titanium white.
  • And the verdict is not in yet as to what other blue I would add in addition to the ultramarine.

I foresee that there will be times when these few colors will just NEVER give me the color I may need–think very intense, highly saturated (aka high chroma) color.

And that’s when I would pull out tubes with specialty colors.

Alas, my color mixing adventure will continue for a while to come. That’s ok. I have a lot of work to do in this area!


In my latest Instagram post I briefly write about being creative. Please check it out and follow me if you haven’t already! Click here to view today’s oil study and leave me a like and/or a comment with your thoughts.

Thanks for taking the time to read my latest musings. May you be well and filled with creative musings of your own in the days ahead!

Till next time,

~R

Fresh Off The Easel!

Hello everyone!

I wanted to share a new pastel painting with you. The subject: bluebird!

I just LOVE bluebirds. In my neck of the woods, we see them only occasionally. So it’s a real treat when we discover a pair building a nest or moving into one of the many bird houses we provide. 🙂

As usual, below are some of the progress shots involved with this painting.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

“Bluebird” 6×8 inches, assorted soft pastels

Until next time…

~R

P.S. Follow me on Instagram for other sneak peeks!

2021: Artistic Reflections & Looking Ahead

Goodbye 2020.

I wish I could say I am going to miss you, but I would be lying.

Will 2021 be better? I sure hope so. But I woke up this morning to an ice storm, tree limbs across the driveway, news that someone has fraudulently claimed unemployment benefits on my hubby’s behalf, power outages, a finicky generator….sigh….

Not off to a great start….

On the other hand, my family is with me at home, safe and healthy. The power is currently on. (Yay!) Relationships in my extended family have been going through some much needed healing, praise God! And I have had the privilege to spend the last year creating art I love in a space I love.

I’m not really one to set New Year’s resolutions, but the quiet that comes after the bustle of the holiday season, especially on a day like today with snow falling onto a hushed world, lends itself to a little introspection.

I look back at what I have spent my time on this last year: caring for my family, homeschooling, music-making, painting.

But if I’m honest, I’ve also spent significant time and energy worrying, wondering, trying to discern, trying to control, trying to adjust, trying to let go.

As I reflect on the changes I have seen in our world in 2020, I hold on to the conviction that I want to do more of what brings light and life into this world.

I think that as artists we have a responsibility to share, to teach, to steward, and by doing those things, to love.

To that end, I thought I would share a little bit about some of my paintings from 2020–what I like about them, why I painted them, and what I learned from painting them.

First up: Pathways No. 1, pastel

Pathways is the genesis of a series of paintings I definitely plan to continue. They are experimental in nature. The scene is from my imagination and represents more of a “mood” than a place.

When I was painting Pathways No. 1, I wanted it to be moody, bleak, brooding, and a little uneasy because that’s how I was feeling. It was a sunny spring day when I painted it—incongruous to my emotions and a world in lockdown—and I needed to see the physical expression of my emotions.

Painting No. 1 was cathartic in many ways, and I remember feeling lighter, freer, and exhilarated as I stepped out the door of my studio when it was finished.

It’s one of those painting that I will never sell because it’s like a journal entry. I painted it just for me.

Next: Pathways No. 2, pastel

By the time Pathways No. 2 came along (above), I was looking for the challenge of creating something of a nocturne.

I strove to capture the sense of it being late in the day when the last light of a stunning sunset is leaving the sky—the time when you can still make out the slightest hints of the colors that flood the landscape during the day before they are lost to the night and your eyes can no longer discern them.

This painting reminds me that we can’t bottle time and we can’t hold on to light. We can only enjoy each fleeting moment and be grateful.

I will keep this blog posted when I paint the next in this series…

Next up: Golden Pines, pastel

Golden Pines was one of those paintings which seemed to paint itself. It didn’t take me long to paint, and it taught me that often simpler is better.

My goal was to capture the low angled sunshine hitting the pine tree trunks late on a winter day. As I look at the photo today, I can see a few things I would tweak. You might think that would make me unhappy, but it actually makes me excited. To me it means I am growing as an artist!

Next: Daisy Delights, acrylic on canvas

Daisy Delights was a delight to paint! (sorry… 😉

This painting seemed to scratch an itch I had to work with thick, impasto strokes of heavy bodied paint—something which is nearly impossible with soft pastels alone. I love the rich tones I could produce which make the painting seem to glow from within.

It was my first acrylic painting AND the first painting I had ever completed entirely with a palette knife—very freeing!

I completed Daisy Delights after viewing the channel “Palette Knife Painting Tutorials” on Youtube. Check it out if you are interested in seeing a how to.

Next: Bunny, watercolor and pen

Oh, that sweet little bunny! I saw the reference photo of this little guy on the line-of-action website I have referenced in a previous post. (I could not find a photographer’s name to credit the photo to, but it is not my own.)

There was just something about his pose and the softness of his fur that just begged to be put into a line and wash type of watercolor.

I love this kind of sketchy, loose look. And who doesn’t love a good scribble???

But my favorite touch was using a pen with watersoluble ink to make a border box. I loved touching the edge of the ink with a water brush to see it bloom and create a loose frame. I am now incorporating that technique to add tone to sketches. But more about that another time.

Next: Squirrel! pastel

Not too much to say about this furry critter except that sometimes a good painting comes out of experimentation and a letting go attitude—at least this one did! My hubby loves it so much he insisted we hang it in the house.

And finally: unnamed painting after Les Darlow, pastel

I wanted to include this pastel painting mainly because it was a huge departure for me. I painted it mostly with Pan Pastels, finely ground pastel in pan containers which are applied with sponges and other tools.

I painted this after viewing a demo by Les Darlow on Youtube—a search will bring it up easily.

I had used pans before mainly as an underpainting, but never to this extent. This painting does have stick pastel applied, mainly in the highlighted areas, and a little marker work in the treeline. Again, lots of experimentation for me, and I love the skyscapes pans let you achieve.

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed browsing through some of my favorite paintings of the year and hearing my thoughts on each.

I pray you are well and will strive along with me to continue developing your creative side as we walk into this new year!

Till next time!

~R

“New World” A Painting in Soft Pastel and a Watercolor Color Study

Hi all! It’s the day after election day, 2020, and I am looking to spend some much needed time seeking creative solace in my studio.

After doing some reorganizing and clean-up, I decided to post about a soft pastel painting and color study I finished up a while back with baby chicks as the subject.

We raise chicks almost every year on our little hobby farm, and this year I took hundreds of photos so I would be ready with inspiration when I had time to paint.

(You might be surprised just how many photos one has to take before getting a “good” one! Those chicks are always on the go!)

When the time came I painted this color study in watercolor….

Watercolor on Winsor & Newton watercolour paper

And here are some of the progress photos….

Once I finished, I knew that I wanted to do these little chicks in soft pastel too!

So I did….

Study (top) & Soft Pastel painting (bottom)

And here is a closer view of the pastel painting in better lighting to make the colors true.

“New World” 8×8
Assorted soft pastels on Strathmore mixed media paper
R. Sorrells, Artist copyright 2020

I hope you enjoy these little chicks as much as I enjoyed painting them!

Till next time—

I hope you are well and finding ways to stay creative!

~R

DIY Art HACK: How to paint to the edges of your canvas without getting paint on your easel’s clamps!

Okay. You are ready to paint. The canvas is on the easel. You’re slinging paint making glorious progress when…SCREECH!!!

Your creative flow comes to an abrupt halt as you realize you need to paint the top (or bottom) edge of your canvas and you can’t because you can’t get to it—the easel’s top clamp or bottom ledge is in the way.

There are some pretty fancy easels out there, and I’m almost sure someone somewhere has designed an easel which avoids this issue. But if you are like me, on a budget and already working on an easel that is inexpensive yet perfectly adequate for my needs, you might want to find a way around this problem.

I suppose you could just unfasten the easel clamp every time you need to paint the top or bottom edges of your canvas, but this seems like a pain. And besides, how would you keep the canvas secure on the easel while those edges are drying?

I suppose you could raise the bottom edge of the canvas up off of its ledge and rest it on a wooden block or other support that is a little narrower than the thickness of the canvas….(my head is starting to hurt now…)

I suppose you could even leave the top and bottom edges of your canvas unpainted….(now that’s just ridiculous!)

Solution???

A simple DIY solution using easily obtained supplies from your studio or local big box hobby store.

Masonite drawing board, masking tape, and neodymium magnets

You will need:

*the canvas you are planning to paint on

*a masonite drawing board which is just slightly larger than your canvas

*some masking tape (not artist tape—it’s not sticky enough)

*one or more packages of Neodymium Magnets—I used 2 packages (16 magnets in total) and purchased mine at Hobby Lobby using a coupon!

STEP 1: Flip your canvas over onto a flat surface so that the back’s wooden stretcher bars are facing up.

STEP 2: Arrange half of your magnets on the wooden stretcher bars so that they are evenly spaced around the frame. The larger your canvas, the more magnets you will need to hold the canvas’s weight.

In the photo below I am using a 20×20 inch canvas, so I used 8 magnets for this step—2 for each stretcher bar.

At this point you do not need to be precise about the magnet placement. You just don’t want them close to each other or they may be attracted!

**Note of caution: Be careful as you work with these magnets. They are very powerful and have a strong magnetic attraction to each other and anything metal! I actually gave myself a blood blister when two magnets I had near each other suddenly snapped together with my finger in the way!!

8 neodymium magnets spaced around the canvas and being taped in place with masking tape…

STEP 3: Once all of the magnets have been taped down with the masking tape, flip your canvas back over and position the canvas onto the drawing board.

Just get the canvas into the general area you want it on the board. You can easily adjust it once your drawing board is on your easel.

STEP 4: Once you have the canvas generally placed on the board, take the other half of your magnets and place them, one by one, onto the back of the drawing board—that is, on the side of the board farthest away from your canvas.

8 magnets in place on the back of the drawing board being held in place by their attraction from the magnets taped on the canvas’s back.

You should have a general idea of where the taped magnets are on your canvas. Just slide a magnet around that general area on the back of the board and you should “feel” a magnetic “push or pull” as the magnets are attracted or repelled.

Of course, if you feel them repelling, simply turn over the magnet you are holding in your hand and it should “snap” into place opposite the magnet taped to the canvas with the drawing board sandwiched in between.

FINAL STEP: Once you have the rear magnets in place, simply adjust your canvas on its board support by gently sliding it up, down, left, or right to get it where you want it.

Now you are ready to paint!

Canvas being held in place magnetically and adjusted so that the top and bottom edges are now accessible for painting!!!

THOUGHTS….

If you find that your canvas slides around too easily as you are painting, you may want to use more magnets to help hold it place. However, this method might not work for you if you are a more aggressive painter!!!

If you don’t have a drawing board, this method will also work using a piece of foam core as a support; however, over time thinner foam core might warp from being tightened down by your easel’s clamps.

One of the beauties of this method is that you can keep the canvas attached to its board temporarily even when the canvas is not on the easel.

This comes in handy if you only have one easel and like to work on more than one painting in a day. Simply remove board and all from easel and replace it with another canvas/board combo. Of course, you would need multiple boards and magnets for this to work….

Or you could simply remove the rear magnets from the drawing board. Lift off canvas A leaving its magnets taped in place. Set it aside. Then put canvas B (complete with its own taped magnets) onto the board. Replace the rear magnets on the back of the drawing board and adjust the new canvas as needed.

Phew!

I hope someone found this art hack helpful. I looked and looked for other solutions to this problem, and didn’t find much, so am happy to share what is working for me.

Happy Painting!

~R

P.S. The art shown in this post is my own work in progress…acrylic on canvas.

Easy Way to Create Toned Pastel Paper Using White Clairfontaine Pastelmat!

Pastelists who are new to Pastelmat may not know that it comes in a variety of colors. A quick on-line search reveals that you can buy it in single large sheets or in pads of different color combinations.

In the past I have purchased several of these pads. However, experience has shown me that there is always at least one color in the pad I tend to not use.

While I LOVE the performance of this paper, it’s too expensive not to use all of the pad.

So….I looked for a way to tone the paper myself.

I had some oversized colored charcoal blocks sitting around, purchased a few years back from here. (They are also sold as individual block colors.)

Derwent XL Charcoal

I also had a pad of white Pastelmat, so I thought I should do an experiment to see if I could successfully tone and fix the colored charcoal to the paper.

I started by rubbing each charcoal block across the paper. Then I rubbed the charcoal into the paper using a piece of pipe foam insulation.

You could try using a chamois or even some paper towel to rub in the charcoal. Pastelmat is relatively smooth compared to most sanded pastel papers, so it shouldn’t tear up your paper towel.

Once the charcoal was rubbed in, I applied 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol with a cheap brush onto the left side of the color swatches.

I applied plain water to the right side of swatches using another cheap brush so as to avoid contamination from the alcohol.

Here are the results:

Top left to right: Sepia (olive green), Sanguine, Ochre
Bottom left to right: Mars Violet (a warm almost black), Black
The set also includes a white block untested for this post.

Conclusions:

First, the alcohol side dried much more quickly than the side fixed with water. Pastelmat paper is really a heavy cardstock, so it tends to absorb water. Since alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, this absorption is not as much of a problem when using the rubbing alcohol.

In fact, this quick drying would be a great benefit if using this toning method in plein air…hardly any wait time!

Once the applied alcohol or water is completely dry, I found that the charcoal is fixed onto the paper very well!

No transfer of charcoal from side fixed with rubbing alcohol.
Very little charcoal transfer from side fixed with water.

I did notice that the side fixed with water has a bit of a “grainy texture” to it, whereas the side fixed with alcohol tended to look more smooth. This could have been a result of the brushes used to spread on the alcohol/water, but I’m not so sure.

Of course, there may be times when one wants more of a textured look. In that case, water might be more likely to produce that result.

In the past, I have used plain vine charcoal as an underpainting value map paintings done in plein air. I fixed the vine charcoal to my paper using spray fixative. While effective, it’s smelly, probably not great for the environment, and is bulky to carry around for a light-weight plein air set-up.

However, adding a block of this charcoal and a small screw-on plastic container of rubbing alcohol or water, plus a cheap wide brush, could be a helpful addition to your plein air supplies.

Well, that’s it for now!

I hope this gives you another tool in your artist’s toolkit!

Till next time….stay creative!

~R

“Golden Pines” A Soft Pastel Painting

Hello creative ones! I am happy to be sharing one of my latest pastel paintings with you today. 🙂

I am finding that I am seeing myself more as a seasonal painter….although I have to admit that sometimes I am a little behind the season when I get around to painting my subjects.

While some of the United States is looking forward to or even starting to experience some spring-like weather, here in northern Indiana we are expecting snow and sleet for the next few days!

So today I bring you a wintery scene featuring some evergreen trees being lit with golden light.

I hope you enjoy this painting. And if you are curious about how I painted it, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see a time-lapse video on my YouTube channel.

Let me know if you like it!

My reference photo (copyright R. Sorrells)
Thumbnail and brown Clairfontaine Pastelmat paper with line sketch
Well into the process now…Needs just a bit more….
“Golden Pines”
Assorted soft pastels on Clairefontaine Pastelmat
6×8 in.
R. Sorrells, Artist
2020

Till next time!

~R

Pastel Painting Demo: “Fallow Field in Winter“

Hello everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and loving life. I can’t believe it’s already February! My, how time flies…

Well, I’ve been moved in to my new studio for about a month now, and it has taken me some time to adjust to working in the new space….something I wasn’t expecting.

I have spent the last several weeks in this new year cocooned in a sort of creative solitude. My goal was to forge a new process or rhythm of working in my studio balanced with the demands of family life, schooling, and other obligations. Not easy.

Mainly, I have been focused on musical inspiration. Many of you may not know that I play violin, so I have to keep up my skills on that instrument. But recently I have also been learning to play guitar—something I tried to teach myself long ago, but that’s another story….

In addition to learning something new, I don’t mind telling you that I had a little trepidation about creating my first art piece of the new year in the new space….and I was feeling the pressure.

When I feel pressure, it’s usually because I am raising my expectations to unreasonable levels, and then I tend to procrastinate so as to avoid that pressure, and it can become this vicious cycle.

Sigh….

Anyway, I gave the perfection and people-pleasing parts of me a good kick in the pants, and went out to the studio to play. And today’s post is the result!

I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Let’s start with the piece.

Now for the progress shots….

First, the set up:

Next, an underpainting of cool blues and purples for this snow scene:

Slow building up of color and establishing the sky.

Deepening the shadow areas and beginning to feel my way with those pesky wintry trees:

More development of the dried grassy areas, as well as the trees:

At this point in the photo below, I thought I was getting close to being done, so I put up some black artist tape….Usually, I use a black mat that I keep on hand for this purpose, but I didn’t have a square one handy!

Hmmm. SOMETHING was bothering me. The painting was missing something or a even a few things, but what?

It was at this point that I let the piece sit on my easel for several days while I thought about it. I often need to step away for a day or so while the painting “cooks”.

When I came back to it with fresh eyes, I used my editing app on my ipad to make some notes of things that I thought needed to be changed.

For starters, I wanted more contrast in the overall piece.

Next, I wanted to bring more unity to the color scheme—especially by tying the sky colors into the rest of the piece.

Finally, I needed to lead the viewer through the work with some subtle hints about where to look.

In the photo above, you can see that I added subtle hints of turquoise into the snow shadows to tie the sky into the rest of the scene.

Next, I deepened some of the dark areas for added contrast.

And lastly, I pushed the colors ever so slightly in areas where I want the viewer to look—namely the golden grass near the focal tree and continuing in the mid-ground grass.

And here is the final result once more.

“Fallow Field in Winter” 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Assorted soft pastels on Pastel Premiere sanded paper
Rhonda Sorrells, Artist
copyright 2020

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Now go get creative!

~R

Tour of my New Studio!

Hello friends!

Today I would like to share with you something near and dear to me…My new studio!

I can’t believe it’s finally done. After several months of dreaming, planning, working, revising, and more work, my hubby and I added the final touches to my new creative space.

Here is a pic of the outside. Landscaping will have to wait…

It’s 16×20 feet which is large enough for me to do my art plus double as a rehearsal space for my own needs as well as those of the string band that I lead. (Prior to having this space we held all of our rehearsals in a small room in my house that doubled as a home office, and we were pretty cramped!)

I love, love, love the tongue and groove walls and ceiling, the laminate flooring we picked out, and all the lovely natural lighting.

So without further ado, here is the video with commentary. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed taking a little tour of my creative space. I hope to do lots of painting and music-making in it this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

~R