Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spring Storm, Looking West

I live in the center of the state of Oregon, an area of the high desert that extends across much of the interior west. When people think of Oregon they usually picture rain, thick pine forests, and majestic mountains - all beautiful. But the eastern half of the state has a different personality equally beautiful, and I am always interested in painting the vastness of the grasslands, the volcanic sculpting of the landscape, and the elemental power of our ever changing weather.

My inspiration for Spring Storm, Looking West comes from just such a location - the grasslands and empty spaces of the north central area of our state. Small towns that are little more than wide spots in the road are slowly disappearing due to the lack of work and a loss of interest in the lifestyle. This is antelope country. Elk, mountain lion and coyote, pheasant, Canadian Geese, grouse...the wildlife reclaims the territory as quickly as the human population moves out.

What I love most about this area of our state is that I can stand out in the elements and see towering volcanic mountains covered with snow in one direction, and an endless horizon in the other direction. When I am standing in this environment I find myself wondering what it would have been like over a hundred years ago. I imagine myself riding through the canyons, leading a string of pack mules, looking for a sheltered place to stop for the night. There is a romance in the idea that we might once again be able to live closely aligned with the natural world.

This painting is 18 by 24 inches, and it is currently unframed. If you are interested in finding out more about Spring Storm, Looking West, please email me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Good Things Small Packages" - Women Artists of the West Small Format Sale

Women Artists of the West
is featuring Good Things, Small Packages, an on-line, small format art sale, perfect for the holidays. You will find beautiful art from some of the top artists in the country, so I hope you will take a look.

I am offering three small format paintings for sale as part of this show.

Aspen Study #1, 10" x 8", oil on panel, not framed
$75.00 and includes shipping.

Aspen Study #2, 10" x 8", oil on panel, not framed.
$75.00, includes shipping

Cloud Study #1. 8" x 10", oil on panel, not framed

If you are interested in purchasing any of these small paintings, please email me

There are many beautiful and affordable paintings offered for sale during this show, so if my work isn't quite what you want, please take a look at what the other artists have to offer. Most pieces are framed. My paintings will fit into standard frames, leaving you the option of framing that suits your tastes, while keeping the price within your comfort levels.

Please enjoy all the beautiful work and have a joyous holiday season!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Along the Deschutes

Click Here to Bid

Oil landscape on an 8" by 16" RayMar linen panel

This is another painting offered during my studio sale. I hope you'll take a look. It is not framed, but the size of 8 x 16 should not be too expensive for custom framing. Besides you get to pick the framing you want.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Year End Studio Sale


It's the last two months of the year and I would like to thank all my supporters and collectors by offering a year-end Studio Sale. I am offering smaller paintings for sale and using ebay to allow you to bid on your favorite piece. Because of the economy - and out of gratitude - I am starting each auction at an extremely low price so I hope you'll click over to ebay and see what's happening.

This painting is titled "Tempest". It is 14" by 14" on 1.5" stretchers, a wonderful linen that I prepared using rabbit skin glue and an oil ground. I've painted the edge thinking that it could be framed in a float frame with just a hint of the color vibrating between canvas and frame. It's not framed (one reason for the low starting bid) and could live quite happily on your wall just as it is until framing is desired.

Thank you again for all of your supportive comments and feedback. I appreciate the time you have invested here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Studio Tip for October

In this economy I'm always thinking about ways to save, so recently I started saving my "grays".

At the end of a painting session, there's always paint on the palette. But my leftover paints were never of sufficient quantity to warrant mixing them into grays and filling empty tubes. I worried about ending up with lots of tubes that would be filled with small quantities of mystery colors.

But I also hated throwing away perfectly good paint, or worse, trying to use it in the next painting when the colors weren't appropriate.
My solution is this:
  • I mix together the remaining paint on the palette and add a few drops of clove oil. Clove oil retards the drying of paint, and smells great. You can also use linseed oil, walnut oil - whatever you prefer. Just don't put in too much oil.
  • I then scoop this blob of paint into a plastic food container with a snap on lid. I recently noticed that you can find very small containers in the grocery store. Or you can recycle what you have on hand. Just wash thoroughly first and keep the lids/lips clean.
Now when I begin a painting session I can easily add these grays to my palette. I can pick and choose warmer or cooler mixtures just by looking into the containers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Easy Photoshop Tips for Your Best Artwork Photos

So you take the photo of your artwork and then's crooked! Here are the simple steps to go from a "Do Over" to "It's Perfect." (This also works if you deliberately shoot at an angle to reduce glare off the painting surface.)

I am using Photoshop Elements, the pared down version of the big version for graphic designers. Still has everything I need. And I've given up on the fancy lighting. I just put the painting on the floor and shoot. (FYI - you can get photoshop for the MAC - I use mine all the time because it will resize when IPhoto won't.)

Open your image. Then click the View drop down menu and select "grid"

The grid is confusing to me at this point so I reduce the size of my image (roll the controller thing on the mouse) or use Ctrl - (minus sign) until only the bold lines are visible. Now you can see how far out of square your image is.

Next open the Image drop down menu and select Transform - then skew. You will be asked "background layer" say yes, then "layer 0" say ok.

Using your mouse, put the pointer on one of the corner circles and drag the image, using your grid lines to help you keep things square. This works in all 4 directions if you need them.

Now go back to View and uncheck the grid.

Then select the crop tool (Rectangular Marquee tool) and crop your now square image.

Next, you want to adjust for the lack of perfect lighting. Select Enhance, then Adjust Brightness/Contrast...then Levels.

This is the "Bell Graph" that opens up. By moving the outside triangle sliders to the starting and ending points on the graph, you keep the light to dark ratio while adjusting the lighting/brightness/contrast stuff. The triangle slider in the middle can be adjusted either way, play with it to see what it does, but usually I just leave it alone.
You're almost done. Now, open the Layer tab (most important) and look at the bottom. If Flatten Image is in bold (it will be if you skew), then select it.

The last step is "Save As" (found in "File" top left corner of the main menu bar). Save as a tiff. This will be the image you will use for every other copy you make. A tiff does not lose data each time you open it. Then "Save As" again as a jpeg so you now have 2 copies of your image.

If you need a smaller copy, go to your tiff, duplicate the image and resize that one, then save it as a jpeg. Or resize the original jpeg.

ALWAYS -- as the VERY LAST STEP -- go to filters, then sharpen, then to unsharp mask. Your program will probably have a default selection for amount, radius and threshold. The amount should be around 100 for digital, you can increase this for print. The radius is how many pixels in the "blob" of pixels to be sharpened, and threshold has to do with the degree of difference between one section compared to the adjoining section. It's all rather confusing, but I have mine set at 100, radius 0.9 pixels, and threshold 9 levels. Sometimes I run that up a bit. Experiment to see what happens if you want to better understand it.

Try this and see if it doesn't make life easier.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lily Pads at Hosmer Lake

Lily Pads at Hosmer Lake
oil, 15 x 30
Sue Favinger Smith @2010

Hosmer Lake is one of the most beautiful fly fishing and kayaking lakes in Oregon. Surrounded by marshes and snow capped volcanic mountains, it is a very spiritual place, one of renewal and contentment. Surrounded by birdsong, buzzing and flitting dragonflies, the bitterns, osprey and bald eagle - it's as close to the natural world as you can get.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Golden Hour - Sparks Lake

"The Golden Hour - Sparks Lake"
@2010 Sue Favinger Smith

Sparks Lake is large and shallow, perfect for human powered watercraft in the summer. We went hiking, wanting to follow the Ray Atkeson Trail - Ray Atkeson's beautiful photography books usually feature this lake.

We decided to venture on beyond the end of the paved section, then took what we thought was the short cut trail back to the main staging area. Unfortunately, I over-rode my husband's opinion at a crucial Y in the trail and we ended up on the longer loop trail. He graciously refrained from saying "I-told-you-so" and I got some better views of the lake from which to create this painting.

Most important lesson learned? Draw a map of the trail network, don't rely on memory. Oh, and wear insect repellent.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Near Mitchell - Oregon

This is one of the images I've entered in the OPA Western Regional Show - I enter every year but haven't gotten in, a story so many artists understand. The competition is intense and the artists who do get in are at the top of their game. I do it because it keeps me motivated to push myself into better and better work, to not be satisfied with what I've done before, and if I ever do get in I will then know that all this work is only starting to pay off. I doubt if I will ever paint at the level I aspire to, but that doesn't stop me from constantly working toward that goal.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Linden Trees and Water

Linden Trees and Water
oil on linen panel, @2010
Available at High Desert Gallery in Bend, Oregon and Sisters, Oregon

An excellent portrait accomplishes several things: it captures the personality of the sitter, it offers a suggestion of mystery, a conversation interrupted, and it is built upon a non-traditional compositional design. In my landscape work I try to approach each "sitter" the way John Singer Sargent or Sorolla might - looking for the personality, the immediacy of the moment, and a viewpoint with an unusual design.

Studio Lighting part Deux

Last fall I was so happy that I'd found a lighting solution for my studio. Ah...right. This was then.

And this is now. I figure I lose one light every three months. This is not your simple light bulb burning out. No, it doesn't matter how many times I replace the bulbs, how I work them in the sockets to get contact. I figure at the rate of failure I have six months left before I am totally in the dark...heh...some might say I'm already there.

In the mean time I have found this lamp that looks like a reject from the 60's. I call it the octopus. Actually it's very functional, and it was a lot less money than the fancy ceiling fixture.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Using Photoshop to Improve Your Reference Photos

While I love the idea of plein air painting, I'm more of a studio painter. I do go out and take my own reference photos, and have recently learned how to use the photomerge command in Photoshop Elements (I'm using an older version, 2.0, without a lot of bells and whistles). I've always struggled with the fact that the camera is limited in what it takes in, but by taking a series of shots and then combining them into one, I can come closer to recreating the feel of the location, the scale, the light, all those elements that make a difference. The image above is the result of about 4 or 5 photos merged together.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March Studio Tip

This month's studio tip has to do with cleaning your brushes - those used for oil painting. I would not recommend this for watercolor brushes.

If you paint in oils you know one of the worst end-of-day jobs is cleaning your brushes. I read about this tip on another blog - I wish I could remember which one, now, so I could give credit. But it works, I've been using it for several months now quite successfully.

Take a bar of natural handmade soap or Ivory soap and put it in an old mason jar. Fill with just enough water to come half way up on the bar of soap. As the soap softens it turns into a gross looking goo but it still works. After a cursory cleaning in oderless mineral spirits I put the brushes into this soap and water mixture. I've - gasp - even left them soaking for several days. I won't admit to anything over a week here. I might scrub the bristles over the soap a bit and then rinse in running water and - presto. They are clean and even those with dried in gunk come out in much better shape. I think it might have something to do with the lanolin that is still in handmade or natural soaps and removed by chemicals in the commercial soaps. The lanolin conditions the bristles - at least that's my theory. Anyway, it works better than anything I've tried to date, is cheaper than most commercial products, and uses up all those hundreds of bars of homemade soap I've received as gifts over the years.

Hey, not that I don't love those soaps or the fact that you thoughtfully gave me a gift...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fixing the Wobbly Easel Problem

If you have one of these A-Frame studio easels you are also probably familiar with the tendency for the easel tray/support to wobble when you are painting. For years I tried all kinds of fixes, putting in way too much thought and creativity into something that continued to frustrate me. And then came an idea so easy a caveman could have thought of it: I used wood shims. Now it's easy to adjust my height and get a stable work support each time. Duh...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Studio Tip for the New Year - New Palette

For years I had been working on a 12 x 16 glass palette. It fit nicely in my work area and I had an old cookie sheet that I inverted over the wet paint to retard drying. Then I discovered a large piece of glass packed in with some old sketches and decided - why not? It's 18 x 28 (probably came from an old watercolor). I cut a piece of medium gray mat board to size and taped the glass and mat together with painter's tape. I could not believe the difference this made. I was so afraid it was too large and I would hate it - but quite the opposite.