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Friday, December 07, 2018

Come Paint with Me in Florida!

'Gentle Breeze'          10x8          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $150
  It is a cold day here in North Georgia! The perfect day to paint palm trees and dream about a trip to Florida! Fortunately for me it isn't just a dream. We will be taking Bertie the Art Spirit (our pop up camper) to Florida in February for a winter break. The timing worked out perfectly to accept the offer of a workshop with the Pastel Society of Central Florida. The two dayworkshop will be held in Leesburg Florida on February 20 and 21st. Below is a screen shot of some information and you can click on this link to access the PCSF website.  I am excited about the opportunity to share and I'd love for you to join us!

Click Here for the link to more information and registration 

Information about today's painting: This painting was done for the artist's choice demo for my Patreon page. We have been exploring trees for the past month and so it was fun to show how I paint palm trees. The painting is 10x8 on Uaart 500 with a 3 value  dry wash. I used the Terry Ludwig Red Rocks set and a few misc. Nupastels.

Terry Ludwig Red Rocks set and an assortment of Nupastels

New Video Demo available this week on my Patreon page www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

What is Soft Mystery in a Painting?

'At Peace'              9x12              pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $165

I don't remember where I came across this quote. Sadly I don't even know the author but it is one that often comes to my rescue. It helps me remain true to my desire to paint with more expression....to paint what I feel rather than render every detail as they exist in my reference.

" The human mind delights in soft mystery"   unknown

It really is amazing how we are able to piece together bits and pieces and make them into a whole. We really don't require much information to fill in the blanks. We prefer it that way. It allows us to participate in a painting. If we see a few blades of grass rendered in detail surrounded by larger blocks of grass color we can assume that the entire area is the same type of grass. We don't need every blade of grass to make this assumption.

A close up view of the distant land mass NO detail at all.

Soft Mystery....keeping this thought in mind as I paint reminds me to decide where I will put clarity and detail and where I can just suggest it.  Take the distant mass of trees and  shrubs in the distance of today's painting. The trees are in the distance so I don't want to paint the them with detail and hard edges. I want to simply suggest a FEELING of the trees. A gentle brush of green and orange pastel is all that is needed. Soft mystery to suggest the foliage and grasses in the distance. In the foreground grasses only a few strokes to suggest grass is all that is needed for our brains to fill in the rest. 

Painting notes: I am working on commissions this week.  I love to paint landscape commissions and have a few openings on my schedule for holiday commissions. Contact me for details! karenmargulis@gmail.com

Monday, December 03, 2018

Listening to an Underpainting

'Autumn Glory'           12x9.         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy.  $165
 Oh the wonderful surprises I find in my studio! Actually in my studio storage room. We converted our garage into a hang out room for the kids when they were teens. Now I have taken over the space with art stuff. I'll show you a picture someday but it is a scary place!  Yesterday I started the process of organizing the space. I do it every December! I love uncovering forgotten surprises so I was excited to find a fun underpainting.

The problem is I no longer have any idea what I was trying to paint. The reference are long gone and forgotten. Not really a problem! It is actually a gift. Now I can look at the underpainting and let it speak to me. What does it suggest? What do the colors want to do? What does this underpainting want to be?

It is clear to me that this underpainting wants to be some yellow trees. So I took out my fall foliage photos and chose one with warm autumn colors. I decided to go with  autumn golden trees with a dark background. I didn't really look at the photos to paint rather I let the underpainting guide my shapes and my imagination did the rest!   It was fun to let the underpainting guide me and I can't wait to do the next one!

An oil stain underpainting 

close up detail
Try This: Do you have unfinished underpaintings in your studio? Why not listen to it and let it guide your next painting. Let your imagination go and have fun without the restraints of a photo!

Saturday, December 01, 2018

A Simple Way to Suggest Detail in a Painting

'Autumn Glory'         pastel     2.5 x 3.5    ©Karen Margulis

 It is one of hardest thing to do for some of us. Getting away from the tendency to put in every detail in a paining. I hear it often.....'How can I learn to SUGGEST detail"  "I don't want to paint every leaf on the tree!" The first step it awareness. If you know you have a tendency towards putting in too much detail and information in a painting that's a start!  There are many things you can do to move away from detail and into the area of suggestion. I'll share a fun idea in today's post.

Paint something tiny!

Last week I focused my blog posts on painting mini pastels....paintings that are 2.5x3.5 inches. I have heard from some of you that you love minis and some of you have been trying them. I hope to convince more of you on the value of making minis a part of your painting practice.

All set up and ready to paint (and make a video)
While it is true that you can paint detail in a small format it can help you move to more suggestion if you let it.

  • Don't use pastel pencils or even too many hard thin pastels. They are easy for detail which you want to avoid!
  • Use your big pastels for larger marks. I use both full size pastels as well as smaller leftover bits. (see my Box of Bits in the photo)
  • Practice making marks on small paper. The more you do the easier it will be to manipulate a pastel in a small space.
  • Start the painting with big simple shapes. Then decide where you will add a touch of detail.
  • Add a few spots of detail....not everywhere!!! The eye will fill in the rest.

Display your minis in frames or use tiny easels
Have fun painting minis!  We spent a month last year learning  all about painting minis. I paint the mini shown below in the video. See the video here www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

'For the Love of Texas'        2.5 x 3.5     pastel  

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Be Open to Inspiration: Pastel Demo

'Prairie Winter'        9x12        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
Sometimes it is a simple thing. One look and the seeds to a painting are planted. When this happens to me I try to act on it. An inspired painting is so much more meaningful than one that is done without excitement. 

Inspiration arrived in the mail yesterday. My friend Annika in Finland sent me a little package with 5 pastels from Russia. "They are no Terry Ludvigs" she wrote. But I was intrigued. It was just the exoticness of pastels from Russia sent to me from Finland that got my wheels turning. I could tell they were quite hard but the colors immediately made me want to paint. They reminded me of the dried and colorful grasses of winter. I had just the subject to paint. The seeds were planted and there was no turning back.

I am completely in love with the public park near my son and daughter-in-law's apartment in Chicago. There is a naturalized prairie area that speaks to me in all seasons. I had the perfect winter picture of the prairie. The Russian pastels would be perfect for the prairies grasses. (They are Olki pastels)

I started with a quick drawing on a piece of blue canson paper. I chose blue because it was all that was left in the pad....the wrong reason but I knew it would work for a cold snowy landscape so I lucked out.

The next step was the underpainting. I used the Russian pastels and a few of my other pastels to block in the big shapes by value.

I chose to blend in this first layer to create some mystery and softness. Now I can decide where to put the most clarity and detail.

In this photo I have developed all of the areas from distant trees to the snow covered path through the prairie grasses. I left the grasses as solid shapes. They are made from big simple shapes with a few pieces of grass put in to give the illusion of a lot of grass. The viewer will fill in the rest. See a close-up photo below.

I used the Russian pastels to paint these grasses and they were perfect! The hard edge allowed me to paint lyrical grass. I was able to paint broken lines that look more believable than thick line. The colors were just right. Just as I had visualized.

I have a full plate and a big acrylic painting on the easel but these Russian pastels inspired a painting and I am glad I listened and took the time to get the painting on paper! Be open to inspiration! You never know what will trigger an idea and if you can listen and take time to get your ideas on paper it will be such a good feeling.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Lesson from an Unintentional Underpainting

'The Quiet Time'         8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
A interesting thing happened in the studio today. I didn't plan it. But I did embrace it. And what could have been frustrating turned into something joyful. It was time for my daily painting. I didn't really have a plan other than wanting to reuse a piece of paper from my reject pile. I pulled out a nice 8x10 piece of white sanded paper. It had a few blue and gold marks from an old demo. It would be the perfect candidate for an alcohol wash.  But I didn't get the results I expected.

The unintentional underpainting
I should have brushed off the pastel marks before using the alcohol. There was more pastel on the paper than I thought and as soon as the brush with alcohol hit the pastel it turned into a gummy blob.

Note: Alcohol washes work best with thin layers of harder pastels. Soft pastels such as Terry Ludwigs may get thick and pasty. Also....pure colors give more vibrant results.

Not only was my pastel turning into a thick mess, the light pastels I had used made it even more pasty. In a bit of frustration I took the handle of the brush and started drawing into the thick pastel mess. I started to see a marsh emerge! I started to get excited and continued drawing my big shapes with the brush handle.

When the underpainitng was dry I painted the marsh I had envisioned and the texture from the thick pastel and scratch marks worked beautifully in my favor. An important lesson was revealed.

"There's nothing quite as beautiful as the unintentional."
            Lyle Carbajal

Perhaps Bob Ross would call it a Happy Accident. But the lesson was clear. Sometimes things happen that are unexpected. We can either fight it or try to change it to our original plan.....or we can embrace it and let something more beautiful emerge.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Try An Underpainting with Vodka!

'Summer Joy'             11x14            pastel               ©Karen Margulis
There was a misunderstanding. Or so I thought. Whatever happened it inspired me to try it....a Vodka Underpainting!  I was working with one of my online mentoring students last month and the assignment was to do an alcohol wash. I was certain I clarified that I use isopropyl alcohol. But when the assignment was done she told me she had used vodka for her alcohol. hmmmmmmmm. 

I didn't see why it wouldn't work. It's a clear liquid. We just need to wet down the pastel with a liquid. Her painting was wonderful!  She explained that she had seen a Youtube video of a Vodka underpainting so decided to try it.

Well know you know me....if I haven't done it yet I need to try it myself.  So into the liquor cabinet I went for a bit of vodka. 

a little bit of vodka in my empty cup
 I didn't use the good stuff. It was actually Costco brand and at about $10 for a big bottle makes doing Vodka underpainting pretty cost effective. You really only use a tiny bit.  I really liked using the Vodka. It had no odor. I sort of made the pastels spread very smooooooth.  I had put down a layer of Nupastels in warm colors on an 11x14 piece of Uart 500.   It immediately started making interesting drips. I call them spiderwebs or root systems. Usually I get this effect with turpenoid and not as much with rubbing alcohol or water. But the vodka made cool drips.  It did take longer to dry than rubbing alcohol.. I would say nearly 30 minutes for it to be completely dry.

The vodka underpainting when dry

Working on the dried underpainting felt the same as any other wet underpainting. I saw no difference. I did manage to cover up all of the cool drips which often happens. Sometimes I am successful at leaving them show and other times I get carried away with pastel! This time I did get carried away and even added some shaved pastel flowers!

I did enjoy using the Vodka and will definitely give it another try!  Maybe a painting party is in order...cocktails and underpaintings!

close up of texture
Don't forget it's Cyber Monday!  Give art this holiday season!  I am offering  a 20% savings on everything in my Etsy shop. Use coupon code GIVEART at checkout.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The JOY of Painting

'Orange Tree Study'          ©Karen Margulis           pastel      12x9
available $165
 Painting is truly Magic. Artists take a blank canvas or piece of paper and create something from nothing.  What could be more exciting than to create a new world on a flat surface.  This is what I love best about painting. Creating something from nothing is such a great feeling. It is pure joy.

I went through a photography stage before I decided to learn how to  paint. I love photography. Capturing beauty and interest with a camera is also magic.  But painting is even better.  Painters don't have to wait for the right light or the perfect moment. We can imagine it. We can invent it. We can create it.

Some artists develop a fear of the blank canvas. It is scary. What if you mess up?  I don't let this fear stop me. In fact  I am never afraid of a blank surface. To me it represents possibilities. A chance to create a new reality. It doesn't matter if the painting doesn't turn out. It is the process of creating that is the high. Besides we can always fix it.

I am thankful for having the opportunity to experience the pure joy of painting! Being able to share this joy with you here on the blog and over on Patreon is icing on the cake!

This tree painting was the subject of a video demo on painting tree trunks over on Patreon. www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Grateful Artist: 10 Reasons to be Grateful

'Autumn Walk'            16x20           pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $450

I have much to be thankful for. Family, good friends, good health and much more.   Being a full time artist has provided me with a whole new set of things to be thankful for.  I'd like to share 10 of them with you.
  1. The gift of sensitivity.  I am grateful for the ability to look at the world in a different way. As I have developed as an artist so has my eye and sensitivity to subtle beauty.  I not only notice the obvious beauty like a fiery sunset, but I notice the simple things like a shaft of warm light across a meadow
  2. My artist friends.  I love all of my friends but there is a special bond I share with my fellow artists. We just see things in a different way. Many of my artists friends were the 'different' ones in their family so when we get together and share so many things in common it is a great feeling. I love my artist friends!
  1. Art Supplies!  We love them and we need them to create. We probably don't need as many supplies as we crave (cavemen made art with burnt sticks)  But part of the fun of creating art is to try new supplies.  And who can resist a new box of gorgeous pastels!
  2. Travel.  I have always had wanderlust but being an artist gives me opportunities to travel. Trips to conventions, workshops and art events take me to new places to discover.  I am grateful for my good friends who love to travel and for the trips we take together. I am also thankful for the opportunity to travel and share the wonderful world of pastels with new friends around the world!
  3. Collectors.  I approach my art by painting the subjects that I love but when a painting connects with someone and they are moved to have it hang in their home....there is no greater feeling of satisfaction. I am grateful for the people who enjoy my work.
  4. The internet.  Even though artists struggle with balancing time online with painting time, I am grateful for the ability to connect with so many artists and art lovers online.  Being an artist can often be a lonely endeavor and having an online community to share work and ideas has been invaluable to me. Being active on social media has led to many connections and new friendships! 
  5. Enjoying my Day Job.  I am grateful for being able to work as an artist full time. I wake up every morning with a spark of excitement for the day. I can't wait to go down into the studio and go to work every day!
  6. Magic.  I am grateful for the chance to create something from nothing. It may not always be a success but just having the opportunity to turn a blank canvas into something.
  7. Books.  I love books, especially art books.  Being an artist gives me a good excuse to collect books. I need them. I need them for instruction and for inspiration. I think I'll buy a new book today!
  8. Sharing. I love to learn so I am grateful for the opportunities to learn from other artists but I learn just as much from sharing what i've learned with others. I love teaching and sharing on my blog and I appreciate all of you who visit every day to see what I have to share!

Are you shopping today? Don't forget to consider the gift of original art. Thanksgiving Day is the last day f my Thankful Event sale. All of my original pastel paintings are 50% off. See them all at this link: www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Gift Of a Sensitive Eye

'Down in the Meadow'           10x8        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $225

It is a common complaint. Finding something to paint is a stumbling block for many. Before I give my two cents on this topic I will share a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
 This quote strikes a chord with me as I am always reminding myself and my students that beauty is everywhere. We should be able to find something that touches us and inspires us wherever we look. We have to approach our search for inspiration with the mindset that there is beauty in everything. We only need to be open to it....to really SEE it. It isn't enough to just look around us. We need to feel the beauty and be sensitive to it. This is something I am thankful for.

I don't use beautiful and perfect reference photos for my paintings. I use small and dark photos. (bad photos) This allows me to pull out the beauty that I see inside of my mind and put it into the painting. I have discovered that  bad photos lead to my best paintings. My favorite places to paint are not the most spectacular. They possess a quiet and simple beauty that speaks to me because I am open to them.

What are you thankful for as an artist? 

the dry wash underpainting
Two more days for the 50% discount on original pastel paintings!  New work has been added including today's painting! Check the out at www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Monday, November 19, 2018

Do You Have an Art Tribe?

'Savoring Sunset's Glow'         11x14       pastel      ©Karen Margulis

Being an artist connects me to other artists. This community of like minded people is a treasure. One doesn't need to be a professional artist to benefit from being a part of the art community.

 It took me 42 years. But I found my tribe. Being a part of a community of artists is something I am very thankful for.  I am lucky to have family and friends who are not artists and they enrich my life tremendously. But no one else quite gets me like a fellow artist does. I have had this discussion with many of my artist friends. We all agree that often we are the oddballs in our family. Who else gets excited by the way the late afternoon light makes even a garbage can beautiful?  Who else understands the pleasure in spending hours looking at art supplies?  I could go on......

My artists friends get it.  It is an exclusive club but one that is very welcoming. I have met some of the most wonderful friends through my involvement with pastels. They inspire me. They motivate me. They make me laugh. From beginners to professional artists....we all get it.   I am privileged to be able to learn from the best artists and in turn to share with others.  I am grateful for this blogging platform and social media that allows me to connect with artists around the world. 

So a special thank you to all of my artist friends....from my VIPS, my Art Spirit Friends, my wonderful teachers (you all know who you are)  to the friends around the world that I have met and thoseI have yet to meet in person....Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  I am proud to be a fellow artist and friend!

Check out this quick video from the IAPS Vice President Christine Ivers. She is talking about the benefits of the IAPS convention which is a great way to meet your pastel tribe!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Thankful Artist: My Top Three List

'Among the Trees'            18x24           pastel             ©Karen Margulis

I am sitting here in my warm and cozy studio. I am planning my weekly blog and Patreon posts. I have the holiday week ahead of me to do nothing but paint and prepare Thanksgiving dinner!  It is great to be an artist.  In this time of giving thanks we all reflect on what we are grateful for. Of course my family and health are at the top of my list. But then comes art. 

Today I am a thankful artist. There are many things about being an artist that enrich my life so I will narrow it down to my top three. 

'Autumn Joy'   8x10    pastel  sold

In this post I will list my top three things that I am thankful for. I will expand on them over the next three days....during this weekend of Thanksgiving.

1. Being an artist gives me the ability to see the world with a new and sensitive eye. Artists can see beauty and interest where others may see nothing.

2. Being an artist connects me to other artists. This community of like minded people is a treasure. One doesn't need to be a professional artist to benefit from being a part of the art community.

3. Being an artist gives me pure JOY.  There is nothing like creating something from nothing. The sheer joy of painting is such a rush. It's the process that makes me happy. A good painting is icing on the cake.

What are some of the things you are thankful for? Share them in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my  Thankful Event painting sale. I am adding new paintings daily until the sale ends on Thanksgiving Day. All original paintings are 50% off! www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Have You Tried Canva?

I'm not the slickest. I probably could use a blog makeover with a more up to date look and feel. But when it comes down to it I'd rather spend my time painting and creating interesting content then working on the behind the scenes design challenges.

 But sometimes I want and need something slick to present my work or workshops. I'd like to create good looking designs that are low cost, low tech and quick. I found it all on a great website called canva.com . I am hooked!  Here is a quick description of Canva from wikipedia:

Canva is a graphic-design tool website, founded in 2012. It uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. It is used by non-designers as well as professionals. The tools can be used for both web and print media design and graphics

I use canva to create photo collages, instagram posts, flyers and much more. I used canva.com to create the photo collage of my work in the photo at the top of this post. It only took a few minutes and it was free! Give Canva a try and let me know what you think!

My Thankful Event sale is still live until Thanksgiving day. Be sure to consider the gift of original art this holiday season! Check out the paintings in my etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulis.com

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tips for Simplifying Tree Paintings

'Lady in Red'            9x12            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It suddenly hit me yesterday when preparing a lesson on painting trees. We often make things more complicated than they have to be. From everything to setting up and starting a painting to the actual painting process itself...it is always a challenge to keep things simple.

Take trees for example. I avoided painting trees for years because I believed them to be too hard....too complicated. I didn't know how to simplify them. I didn't know how to simplify anything involved with painting. I wish I had pictures of the huge cart of supplies I would haul to pastel class! Live and learn!

Trees don't have to be complicated. They are just shapes after all. Once I learned how to simplify a tree into a basic shape and then carve and mould it like it was a lump of clay, painting trees became doable. Now I enjoy painting trees. Starting and keeping things simple has been the key.

Breaking up the distant tree line with the sky

Ideas for Simplifying Trees

  • Look at the overall shape of the tree. Is it oval? Square? Round? Triangular?  Does it have lots of little section of foliage?  Block in this big simple shape.
  • Pay attention to the silhouette of the tree....If it was just a big flat shape what would the outer edges look like? 
  • Make sure the shape you block in for the tree is an interesting shape. You want an interesting positive shape as well as have the shape around the tree (negative space) be interesting.
  • Don't let the symbol your brain has for a tree cause you to make a plain, boring and orderly shape.
  • Observe carefully. Be a good observer of trees. Pay attention to how they grow, what kind of foliage do they have? Where do their branches come from?
  • Practice, Practice and practice some more. Don't avoid what frustrates you. (but don't obsess about it either, balance practice with difficult subjects with subjects you have success with.)

Join us over on my Patreon page for many more tips, video demos and challenge exercises. The month of November is Tree Month! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Painting the negative spaces AKA sky holes 

Be sure to check out my paintings in my Etsy shop. For this week only they are available at a 50% discount! click on this link to see the paintings: www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Sale You Have Been Waiting For! 50% Off Original Pastel Paintings!

I am thankful to have the opportunity to share my love of pastels and painting with you here on my blog. I have been sharing here since 2006 and it has been such a rewarding experience. Blogging has encouraged me to paint every day. All of those paintings have helped me share tips and techniques with you and they have allowed me to grow as an artist as well. The bonus is a studio full of paintings that need good homes!
This week I am offering  a 50% discount on all of the paintings in my Etsy shop! There is a painting for every price range from minis starting at $12.50 to large up to 24x36! All paintings are original pastels and many of them have been shown here or painted for a Patreon / blog / YouTube demonstrations. The sale ends on Thanksgiving Day! 
 Remember, original art makes wonderful holiday gifts for your friends and family (or for yourself!) THANK YOU for your support of my blog. 
Visit my etsy shop to view the paintings.  You don't need an etsy account to make a purchase. Just check out as a guest. Click on the link below:

Here are just a few of the 100 paintings that are available at 50% off! Note that a few paintings don't have the sale price since I just added them.  They are still on sale for 50% off. Click on those paintings to see the sale price. 
Please share the sale with your friends!