Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Thought

It's Christmas Eve, and I wanted to thank all of you who have supported me this past year, particularly those who have recently purchased items from both ebay and etsy. As a result of your generosity, I have been able to pass along the creative energy in the form of another Kiva loan, this time to a 57 year old woman in Tajikistan. She is a widow, trained as a nurse, but selling furniture in a retail environment to support her 4 children. Thank you! Your purchases mean more than just the acquisition of a pretty decoration.

Have a joyous season.

Best Regards,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Study: Vietnamese Pot

Wooden Spoon with Vietnamese Pot
5 x 7, oil on gessoed bristol

I've been painting on a daily basis since my work hours were cut back to one day a week - a blessing in disguise. This little painting started out with just the red vase, the eggplant, and a Vietnamese cooking pot tied with string. But once I got going on it, I realized I had an empty space on the right side. I went to the kitchen and the wooden spoon seemed to be the perfect element. I ended up liking this painting and decided the composition would hold up in a larger version, so I started one 22 x 28.

I've recently added the PayPal option on my website and started offering paintings for sale. You can visit by clicking on Paintings From The Oregon Outback. Tell me what you think - my prices include free shipping.

I've also been experimenting with eBay and Etsy. I've recently sold paintings using both services and I think I like Etsy a bit better. But the jury is still out. I've also been working on building an identity that generates curiosity and easy identification on the eBay auction site. It's extremely difficult to catch the attention of the right person when you're in the middle of so many thousands of images. I'm also exploring 1000Markets, which uses Amazon Payments instead of PayPal. There seem to be many choices, and each requires a different marketing approach. I'll keep you updated on what I discover.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Red Onion, Amber Jar

Red Onion, Amber Jar
7 x 5, oil on gessoed bristol

This little painting started out as a real challenge. In fact, half way through I was sure I was going to have to throw it away. The jar looked opaque and not at all transparent, the light reflections looked like smeared fingerprints. The onion wasn't making any visual sense at all. But it's just gessoed bristol, I'm telling myself, no great cost if I throw it away, just keep painting to see what you can do. And then something happened, I'm not sure exactly what, but the jar started to resolve itself. Transparent - yea! highlights looking -- real -- double yea! But that onion...I have a bad habit that whenever I feel that a painting is just boring I pick up the palette knife, load it up with lots of color, and then just go for it.'s like frosting a cake and just adds to my misery, but sometimes it's the perfect ending to a nice little painting. Anyway, I like it a whole lot more than I did half way through painting it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Paintings From the Oregon Outback: Smith Rocks #3

Smith Rocks #3
From the "when Space Could Breathe" landscape series, focusing on places in the Oregon Outback once populated by Indians, trappers, robbers and bandits...

Smith Rocks got it's name from the old homestead tale of a man named Smith who was chased by either a posse or Indians ( the details differ depending upon who's telling the tale.) When he realized he was trapped at the top of these giant cliffs overlooking the Crooked River, he decided to jump rather than face impending capture.

Smith Rocks #3 is 20 inches high and 16 inches wide, on canvas mounted to hardboard.
This painting is now being offered at auction. To bid, visit here.

Or, just go look for the fun of it!
But...if you love it, I hope you'll buy it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Along the Old Post Road

Along The Old Post Road
Available at auction for 7 days
If you would like to see more, please click here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Studio Tip for December

Don't you just hate putting gesso on raw canvas? Well, here's a tip that really works for me.

I started using a 3 inch foam rubber roller. It comes in a kit that includes a tiny plastic tray that doubles as a storage container. You'll find it in the house painting section of your local home improvement store - the one I found is made by Rubbermaid but there may be other brands available.

After putting a small quantity of gesso into the tray, I roll it on the canvas or board. It's so quick you'll actually enjoy the chore, and the best part is that you get very even coverage without the annoying brush marks -- unless you want brush marks, that is. I usually do two or three thin coats, alternating the direction each time. Then, if I want more texture, I'll use a gesso brush for the last layer.

Clean up is easy, the roller lasts a long time, and replacement foam is available.

I can tell you, this really saves my shoulder when preparing a large canvas.

One warning, though -- this method splatters gesso around, mostly on your hands and arms, so be sure you protect any surfaces that are in the line of fire. Those little dried specks of gesso are a real bear to clean up...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dry Canyon Looking South

Dry Canyon Looking South
22 inches x 28 inches
original oil on linen
@sue smith2007

This is one of the few remaining paintings in the landscape series I did last year. Most of the work sold from my studio when I had space in The Loft, and we offered monthly art walks. When The Loft closed I brought this painting, along with a few others, home and put them aside. I wasn't showing in any traditional galleries at that time, so I had no real outlet. While I am selling work in three galleries right now, two are contemporary abstract venues and one is looking at the still life paintings. So this is an opportunity to pick up a beautiful painting at an a great price.

I'm experimenting with a variety of ways to sell original art without galleries. I will let you know my progress as I go along.

This is a beautiful painting, so I'm hopeful that it will find it's way into the perfect environment and bring many years of enjoyment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Clouds Over christmas Valley

"Clouds Over Christmas Valley"
8 x 10, oil on gessoed panel
@Sue Smith 2008
$100, includes shipping to US
Email me if you are interested in purchasing this little landscape and I'll have it to you before Christmas.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Between a Rock and a Blue Plate

"Between a Rock and a Blue Plate"
6" x 6", oil on gessoed panel
@Sue Smith, 2008

There's no reason we can't have a little fun with our current economic situation, is there?

This painting sells for $100. If you are interested in purchasing it, please email me and I will put it on Etsy and send you the link. Hopefully. I'm still trying to figure this all out.
Oh, and the paint is still wet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Studio Tip for November

November is the month for "In with the new, out with the old" and my studio is no exception. I spent several days giving my workspace a makeover, due in part to the photographer who would be coming to photograph the artist in her native environment. When the "native environment" looks more like a pack rat's nest than a working studio, well, some serious work needed to be done.

I generally prefer to work and live in an orderly and esthetically pleasing environment. Chaos leaves me feeling unsettled, but often things get away from me and I am legendary for my "stacking" abilities. Does this happen to you, too? It was a lot of work, but I put in place several ideas to keep me organized and I wanted to share the best ones here.

  • Remove everything that you don't use regularly. For me, this included watercolor and acrylic supplies, books, my hand tools (sander and drill), photo lights, and other odds and ends. Find some other place to store these items: shelves in the garage, donations, etc.
  • I found some decorative boxes which I filled with the small items that always get lost, and stacked them on my shelf unit. I labeled the sides so I could find things easily, but the labels would not detract from the "pretty boxes" which I enjoy.
  • I bought old fashioned, heavy bookends and organized my books on several shelves according to their topics: general information, specific techniques, etc. This keeps each section manageable so that I'm not hunting for an extra 30 minutes for that one specific book.
  • I brought in an pretty patterned area rug and threw it down on top of the "ugly utility rugs" I was using.
  • I rediscovered the wire shoe racks I'd used when I had my larger studio. I'd left them in the garage when I moved everything home. I had been using these wire racks on edge as a drying rack for wet canvas and really missed the convenience. I realized after cleaning out the stacks of stuff beneath my watercolor tables that these racks would fit perfectly.
I store not only wet canvases here, but also the empty panels under the table, and I use another set as a two tiered flat drying rack on top of the table - easy to remove if I need the working space. For the racks set on edge, the wire "ends" keep your wet canvas off the floor (or rug). This is an inexpensive and easy solution to those storage issues in the small home studio.

But the best thing about cleaning my studio was that it gave me a renewed sense of optimism, of starting fresh again and knowing so much more than I did before. It was as if I had swept all the negativity about the economy and the future of the art world out with the old magazines and dried up paints.

If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Recently I have been going through a period of searching...for what I'm not sure. It has to do with a what I'm painting, how I'm painting. It feels as if I have to go back all the way to the beginning and start from scratch. I wrote a recent post on Ancient Artist in which the above image was created from a photograph. I've always enjoyed figure work and quit painting figures two years ago after several people "in the know" told me that figures don't sell. I enjoy landscape work, too, don't get me wrong, but it seems so difficult right now for me to find the right approach.

I'm not whining, exactly. I have had more success with the abstract paintings than the landscapes recently, so logically you might ask "Why change styles?" But there's something about pushing myself into a more technically proficient approach that I am interested in right now. So I've been doing my version of daily painting. It's more like almost daily painting, because when I have to work there's not much painting going on. but I've got more time off right now, so...I'm painting.

The above image was instructive. I painted it using my altered photo image, which allowed me to see one solution in painting the shapes. I will post more images as I paint them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tips from my Studio

Here is another tip I recently discovered.

In cleaning up after several days of painting, I discovered that Mr. Clean's magic sponge makes it easy to get my palette knives back to shiny new and works well on the dried gunk that ends up around my brush cleaning jar and the edges of my palette. I use a razor blade scraper and "Simple Green" spray cleaner on the palette itself, then wipe clean with paper towels. The Magic Sponge works nicely if you get a bit of oil paint on your hand, too, although repeated scrubbing does tend to chap the skin, so if you have a lot of paint to remove, use baby oil and then soap. (Usually I wear latex gloves to paint, but sometimes I get lazy, or I pick up a dirty rag or paper towel. And my brush handles have been known to get messy, too.)

Always be sure you have plenty of ventilation in your studio. I have a box fan in one window that I use to exhaust the air, and another in a different window that sucks in fresh air. I also have an air purifier but I know that eventually I will have to upgrade to one of the ones made specifically for artists. At least the air quality is better than that I experienced in art school.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Best Summer Tip So Far

I read about this tip on the Daily-Painters group that David R Darrow hosts. I've tried it and it works.

To keep your oil paints wet on the palette for a long time, mix a drop of clove oil into the paint. You can get clove oil at any health food store. Not only did it keep my paints "skin-free" for over 2 weeks, the clove smell is a wonderful alternative to "oil paint" and I didn't notice any problems with the drying times for the paint once it was on the canvas.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Painting in the Great Outdoors - Almost

"Summer Bath" Oil on Canvas on Panel
Copyright Sue Smith 2008

My painting practice has been heavily influenced lately by the atelier approach to realism and narrative. I began this little painting in the studio using reference photos, but quickly realized that I needed to be painting from life. Fortunately there were plenty of similar bushes in my back yard, with nice early morning light and good shade for my painting set-up. The added bonus was that I didn't have to worry about what I might need, as it was a quick trip into the house if I'd forgotten anything.

I knew that the content of the towel added a narrative and interest to what was otherwise a portrait of a bush with a lovely bit of water beneath it. But actually setting up the "still life" with a white sheet draped over the accommodating shrub allowed me to actually see what I was painting. Coming from an abstract/conceptual background, it has been a sometimes slow process for me to shift my visual thinking and feel more comfortable in the realism approach, but I am pleased with the end result. "Summer Bath" has something more to convey to the viewer, and I am growing more comfortable with the plein air painting process. I might even experiment with still life.

I also tried a new product from Art Supply Warehouse that is a primed, smooth canvas on a double birch panel. Billed as perfect for portrait work, I remember reading the advice that gesso should be applied for those wanting more tooth. l I experimented with the first panel, finding the surface extremely frustrating. But once the first layer of very brushy, wash-type paint had a chance to develop some tack, the surface was wonderful. I particularly liked the stability and no fears of future warping. Plus, other canvas on panel products that I've used have a surface with the opposite effect of too much tooth. It's all a process of experimentation. I may even try making my own canvas on panels one of these days, so if anyone has a secret tip or two, please pass it along. Otherwise, I like this new product. I have another one which I will coat with some Daniel Smith gesso first to see if it makes a difference.

Happy painting.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lost Horse Lake Revisited

While I was pleased enough with the finished painting I posted previously, as I kept looking at it something just felt "off." I finally figured it out, and went back to make corrections. I think that this view feels more "comfortable" now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lost Horse Lake

I have been working on this painting, titled "Lost Horse Lake" for the past several days. As I have been studying the classical methods, I thought I would also post my sketch work that reveals some of the underlying grid and placement of major lines.

I've been working in the smaller 16 x 20 format lately. At first, it was a struggle to reduce the proportions from my favored 22 x 28 format. Even though both sizes have the same ratio aspect, I did have to go back to the underlying patterns to get the correct "fit."

For example, with a 16 x 20, the golden ratio indicates grid lines at about 7.5/12.5 and 9.5/6.5 to divide the space harmoniously. I placed my grid lines in the above sketch at these divisions, with a dominate arrangement counterbalanced by a secondary arrangement.

I also paid more attention to the contrasts of hue/intensity/value in the color work. I am finally gaining some understanding about "edge work" - which not only refers to the quality of edges on the major shapes (ie: hard, soft, lost, etc) but also the edges of the painting, and how to gradate the color intensity to move the eye in and around the composition.

I did use an inspiration photo:

This is a man made lake just west of where I live. Because it doesn't have a natural inflow and outlet, the water is extremely calm and allows for perfect reflections. I utilized information but created a painting that is original and different. I remember an artist who was giving a lecture once said that his paintings did not reflect his photographs, but could not be created without them. I could say the same about this painting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Study Habits

I have been going "back to school" in a way, returning to my books and resources to find direction. There are no shortcuts: I've learned that you need to sketch or paint every day to improve your skills.

Here are a few of the resources I have recently discovered that focus on realism:

  • Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts
  • Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides
  • Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides

My primary art education focused on the abstract, and the Elements work (seen above) has been very well received. Abstract uses some of the same foundational principles as does Realism, but I am finding that there are definite skills that I'd like to develop in order for my paintings to speak as clearly as I wish.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Red Onion

Red Onion
6 x 8
oil on canvas board

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Asparagus on a Box

Asparagus on a Box
8" x 6"
oil on canvas panel

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Small Work

6" x 8"
oil on canvas panel
Still wet, so the paint is shiny in the upper right corner. I have been interested in the "A Painting A Day" movement for some time, and although I work and can't always produce work each day, this was fun and I intend to do more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mesa Series #3 Lament

This is the finished version of Mesa Series: Lament. For those of you who have seen this painting on my Ancient Artist Blog, you won't notice much difference, but I did add a "cliff" element to the lower left corner in keeping with the rest of the paintings in this series, and I darkened some of the clouds on the distant horizon. It's amazing how adding that one element in the lower left corner pulled the painting together. I know, I've read a thousand times about having three corners similar and one different, and I hate using "formulas" but what I think is happening here is that I've created a visual gateway that pulls the viewer's eye easily into the painting and changes up what was otherwise a rather boring little space.

Mesa Series: Lament
Oil on canvas
40 x 60 on 1.5 stretchers

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mesa Series #2; Greeting the Sun

This is the second painting in the Mesa Series. dimensions are 40 inches high by 30 inches wide, and my process involves working with oil washes on a textured ground, with the layers gradually building with thicker paint. This painting is also in the submission process and won't be available until the middle of May.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mesa Series #1 Seeds in the Sky as Stars

This is the first painting in The Mesa Series, a new body of work featuring large paintings. This series evolved from an earlier body of work called The Ancient Walls.

My process builds on textured grounds and layers of colors, creating mysterious surfaces that suggest the spiritual forces found in the landscape.
Seeds in the Sky as Stars is 40 x 30 on 1.5 inch stretchers.

This painting has been submitted to a juried art competition and will not be available for purchase until after I receive the results in May.