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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Paintings from Provence and What I Used to Paint Them

'Impressions of Provence''           5x7       pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $95 click here
 I really don't know where to begin. It has taken me a couple of days since returning home from France to get caught up. I am not sure it has all sunk in yet. I had the most amazing and magical two weeks in Provence and I think I left a part of me there.

I came home filled with memories and inspiration.....and goodies. I have a duffle bag full of interesting finds from my trip. I also have 40 paintings done on my trip and over 3000 photos! That's a lot of inspiration and I will begin to sort them and find a way to share them here with you. As for my past summer trips I will be writing a detailed trip report and sharing some of my photos and paintings. I hope you will follow along and enjoy the virtual trip to Provence.

Many of these paintings are now available in my Etsy shop. They are $95 each with free shipping. Click here to see them all.

I'll start with the paintings. I came home with 40 small paintings. Each one is 5x7 and was painted either plein air or from the photos I was taking on the trip. It was very hot. I found that a good time to paint was inside the sunlit kitchen during the hottest part of the day. The light was wonderful and I was comfortable. Here are some photos of my set up:

My travel set up was based around my Heilman single sketchbox
 My pastel set up was perfect for this trip. It wasn't a painting trip. In fact only one other travel mate was an artist. I wasn't sure how much time I would have to paint  and I was determined to travel light.  I didn't want to be bogged down with a big box of pastels and an easel. Here is what I used. It all fit into a zippered book cover and that fit easily in my backpack.

  • Heilman single sketchbox was the perfect size. It has one section for pastels and can be used as a pochade box. To get the maximum use of the space I used Girault pastels that I broke in half.(I had the two Richard McKinley sets and fit most of them in the box. Girault pastel are wonderful because they are firm yet go on soft....they are great for travel.
  • To supplement the Giraults I filled a small Nupastel box with some broken pieces of Nupastels, I chose them because the harder Nupastels work great with the softer Giraults and they also travel well. The small thin box fir into the pocket of my book cover.
  • My Purple box! If you look closely at the photo you can see a small tin box. It has a selection of Terry Ludwig violets. I knew I would be painting lavender and I would need some good purples. I am so glad I brought this small selection of violet pastels.
  • Paper and Itoya portfolio to hold paper and finished paintings. I precut 45 pieces of pastel paper in 5x7 size. I used an assortment of paper including Pastelmat, Uart, Wallis warm mist and some homemade surfaces with clear gesso. I filled a 5x7 Itoya portfolio book with the papers and as I finished a painting I would slip it back inside the book. This kept my papers and paintings safe and clean.
  • A piece of 5x7 foamcore covered with a clearable plastic bag for protection. This was my painting board. I used small Banker's clasps to hold the paper in place.
  • NO easel. I worked flat either on my lap or at a table or countertop. Since I was working small It worked well without an easel. It was liberating!

Another look at my set up. After a painting session I just recycled the used newspaper.

I got into a good painting routine and usually managed to paint 4 painting each day. I am looking forward to interpreting these paintings and using the photos I took to paint larger studio paintings but there is something very special about the paintings I did while in Provence. I'd like to think they are infused with the magic I was feeling. 

Have a look at all of the available Provence painting in my etsy shop. Click here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KarenMargulisFineArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=24324413

Stay tuned for my travelogue of my Magical adventure in Provence! If you are a Patreon member I will be doing a video sharing more details of my paintings and travel set up. www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Generate Painting Ideas

'Joyful'            5x7            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
It is hard to get started. There always seems to be something else that needs to get done. Painting time often takes a back seat. Especially when you haven't even been home for much of the summer! 

When I return home form this trip  I will have a long list of things I need to do but it is important for me to make a little time in my day to paint. I don't need much time. Under 30 minutes is enough. I think of painting time like doing a workout...30 minutes helps keep me fluent and flexible.  All of my daily workouts add up and makes me a better painter.

Making time to paint is easier if you know in advance what you are going to paint.  Having a selection of reference photos or subjects already planned saves much time and energy. 

TIP: Spend some non painting time choosing reference photos and clipping them to the paper you will use. Put these painting ideas in a pile. When it is time to paint only choose from this pile. Feel free to add to the pile only during non-painting time. Generating a stockpile of painting ideas during downtime allows you to be more productive when it is time to paint.

'Happiness'        6x6        pastel          sold

Today's paintings took about 30 minutes. I was able to start painting as soon as I went down into the studio because I had a pile of photos and papers all ready. I was able to get into the zone quickly. I enjoyed the first painting(top) and wanted to do more!  I was inspired by the first painting to zoom in closer to the Hollyhocks and paint another version. 

Often the act of painting will generate ideas for other paintings. My first painting inspired several new ideas that I look forward to exploring.

It was easy to get started when I have so many painting ideas all ready and waiting. It was just a matter of making time and ignoring all distractions!  How do you generate painting ideas? Share in the comments!

My reference photo from Auvers-sur-Oise France

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sneaking Up on an Underpainting

'Evening Walk in the Wheat Fields'        10 x 10     pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
It was an old and dirty piece of paper. It had been mounted on foamcore sitting in a pile waiting for inspiration to strike. But it had gotten buried in the pile and now was covered in splotches of random color. I never waste paper so I decided to use it and wash in the colors with a wet underpainting.

My subject was a scene from my last summer trip to France. Our home base in Normandy was surrounded by wheat fields. (technically they could have been barley but wheat seems more romantic somehow) Every evening after dinner we would go for a walk through the village and up into the fields. At the highest point you could see far into the distance and see the beach and water. It was an inspiring place and was especially inspiring one evening when the sun broke through the gray clouds of a rainy day.

Read on to see how I used the underpainting to help express what I remember of that evening.

I used two Derwent Inktense sticks to draw and block in the main shapes. I used a dark blue and dark purple. I used a stiff brush and water to create a wash with the ink. I was very happy to see how the water interacted with the inktense. It produced some interesting drips. I'm not sure what the yellow stain was but it was on my paper and seemed waxy. It resisted the ink and water. I liked it.

Because I really enjoyed what happened in the underpainting I wasn't sure how much pastel I wanted to use. I had to take baby steps and sneak up on the underpainting with pastel. I started with the most important thing first.....the yellow light on the wheat fields.  I very tentatively added light layers of gold and green to the field.

I slowly added more pastel....an even lighter yellow on the filed and more greens in the grass hill. I chose to leave the yellow sloth in the tree. Just because.

I wanted to add some green to the trees but I started with a purple to match the color and value of the underpainting. Then I began to develop the tree.

I saved the sky for last. This isn't the usual way I work But  since I liked the underpainting I wanted to let it do most of the work. The color and value of the sky were close to what I wanted so a decided to use a few warm and cool purples to lightly layer in the sky. I added a few pale yellow clouds to make a connection to the fields and the sky was finished.

All that was left to do was add the final marks....the spices. I chose a wonderful rich blue and made a few marks. Can you spot them? It was fun to work this way and allow myself to be guided by the underpainting.

Painting notes: 10x10 on Uart 500 grade with Terry Ludwig and Unison pastels

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Best Solution Ever for Traveling with Pastels

'Memories of France'            5x7            pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $45
Enjoy this post from the archives while I am away in Provence. I have my trusty portfolio book with paper with me!

One of the most important things to consider when traveling with pastels is how to carry and store your paper and finished paintings.  I have been using this solution for several years and It has been the Best!! Read on to see how I transport my  paper and paintings.

Plastic portfolio books by Itoya

  •  When I travel I bring an assortment of my favorite sanded pastel papers. Uart, Pastel Premier, 
       Tip: Bring paper that you are familiar with. Unless you have a lot of room and want to                     experiment and play it is safer to work on paper you know.
  • I cut full sheets of the papers into smaller sizes both 5x7 and 8x10. I use a ruler and scissors or utility knife to cut the paper. (saves money)
  • I sometimes tone some of the Uart paper in my favorite plein air color (a medium value gray)
  • I fill my Itoya plastic portfolio folders wit the cut paper. These folders have plastic sleeves that work great for protecting and transporting paper.
  • I put finished paintings back into the plastic sleeve of the folder. This is how I transport and protect my finished paintings. (yes a little residual pastel dust is left on the plastic but not enough to harm the painting.)
  • The plastic folders are great for sharing your work with others and keeping the paintings safe. 
  • The loaded folders are slipped into my backpack. The perfect solution for keeping both paper and paintings safe!
'Memories of France II'      5x7      $45

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Dealing With the Greens of Summer Pastel Demo

'Summer Green'            8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis

Are you dealing with the greens of summer? This post from the archives will give you some tips!

It's been raining in Georgia just about everyday this summer. So everything is very lush and green. My weeds are out of control. But it's raining so I spent the day inside painting instead of pulling weeds.  I decided to paint a summer landscape from a tiny photo I took of a roadside mountain stream.  I took some progress photos so follow along and see how I tried to make a very green landscape interesting.

I started the painting on a piece of Uart 600 grit paper with a loose charcoal drawing. I then underpaint the shapes with some orange and red NuPastels. I blend in the Nupastel with a piece of pipe insulation foam.  I chose the reds and orange because I knew I would be adding a lot of green. So in using the compliment of the greens I would make the greens more exciting.

I started blocking in the dark shapes. I am now using soft pastels. This painting was done only using Terry Ludwig pastels. Next I put in the bright yellows in the sunlit areas of the grass. One of the things I liked about this scene was the strong light and shadow patterns so I wanted to be sure to get them in place early on.

I am using a variety of greens from Terry Ludwig's green set. I have some dark cool greens in the distance and shaded areas.  I then put in the sky using a very pale blue green. I also use the same colors in the water.  I try to break up the shape of the trees with sky color.

I now introduce some purple in the tree trunks and along the banks. One of my favorite quotes from Richard McKinley is about the secret of green. He says the secret of green is orange and violet is the friend.  I like to keep this thought in mind when I am dealing with a lot of green in the landscape. In this painting the orange is the underpainting and the violet is the little touches I put in as I finish the painting.

I continue building up the layers of green. I am using bold strokes. I want to let some of the orange peek through and the bold stokes keep me from overblending the green and orange which could make the greens look muddy. I add the final punctuation marks such as the orange in the tree trunks and little purple marks in the grass.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Using Texture to Reinvent a Painting

'A Good Year for the Queen'             8x10            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
This post from the archives is an oldie but a good one! Enjoy!

It's playtime in my studio today! I have a big to-do list but nothing pressing at the moment so it was time to paint for fun. It is a time to experiment and make discoveries. I will share all of the fun in upcoming posts. One of the projects today was a painting makeover. I love taking a painting that just didn't click and having fun with it.

Here is the painting that I decided to make over:

The original painting was a winter landscape 
It was an 8x10 demo I did for a private class. The student wanted to paint a snow scene. The painting served it's purpose to explain some snow techniques but I wasn't excited about it. I am finished with snow and ready for spring and summer!  Why not use the 'bones' of this painting and turn it into a summer landscape?

the photo that inspired the revised painting
Last summer was kind to Queen Anne's Lace. It was everywhere and it was thick! I had a photo that would work for my new landscape. 
  • To start the transformation I brushed off as much snow as I could. I then sprayed the painting with some workable fixative to seal the ghost image.
  • I kept the major shapes of the trees and developed them a bit more. I added the distant blue mountain shape.
  • Next I put in some nice rich darks that would form the pathway under the grasses.
  • Time for the grass. I begin with a cooler and lighter green in the distance. I used a variety of greens in the mid and foreground to represent the variety of grasses.
  • Next came the flowers. I wanted the Queen Annes Lace to drift lazily towards the trees. I varied the size of the flowers to create this effect....big to small.
  • Some of the flowers were in shadows so they are blue.
  • I choose a few flowers to highlight and make more important.

a close up showing the textured surface
Painting tips: This painting is on a piece of Multimedia Artboard that I prepped with clear gesso leaving a nice random texture. It was originally toned orange. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

An Easy Way to Reuse Pastel Paper

'Making Friends'         12x12       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $165

Enjoy this post from the archives!

I wanted some paper with texture. My subject was a wild and wooly Icelandic sheep. A textured surface would be perfect to help me capture the feeling of his shaggy coat. I didn't have any textured surfaces ready so I decided I would make my own. I decided to repurpose an old unfinished painting from my pile of discards. It was a piece of sanded paper mounted on foam board. It was the perfect candidate for recycling.

I brushed off the old painting with a stiff brush getting off as much pastel as I could. It was such a dark painting that I wasn't able to remove much but the dark value orange would work well with my white sheep.

Next I slapped on some clear gesso with a cheap brush using random brushstrokes. The clear gesso mixed with the pastel to create the dark tone. The slight grittiness in the gesso would give more tooth to the surface. It took about an hour to dry and then I was ready to paint my friend the sheep!

 I am planning to continue my Iceland travelog in my blog www.paintingiceland.blogspot.com You can read about both my 2014 and 2016 trips to Iceland in the blog. Here is part 2:

I've been to Iceland before. It was the summer of 2014 and I joined Stan Sperlak and his Painter's Passport group for a pastel workshop/expedition. It was a wonderful adventure filled with many amazing experiences.  I fell in love with Iceland and hoped that someday I would return. But it was a distant thought that was soon buried by my busy everyday life....Until the summer of 2015.
Once again I joined Stan and the Painter's Passport group this time as a co-teacher. Stan chose my roommate for me and that changed everything.

She was from Iceland and we connected immediately. She was a kindred soul across the sea. Sisters. Artists and forever friends. We bonded on the very first day. We shared an adventure in France and knew that our friendship would not just end at the airport in Paris. When she said "come visit me in Iceland", I knew that I would and this time it would be different. Very different.

The Heart stone that Elinros found on the beach in Normandy. If you'd like to read the story behind the stone visit my France travelog here: http://paintingfrance.blogspot.com
Below are two of the paintings done from the first trip to Iceland. 
'Summer lll'      19x14      pastel      $195

'Summer in Iceland l'       11x14     pastel    $150
The adventure begins.....to be continued.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

A Good Reason to Have some Pastel Pencils

'Silver Ribbons'          12x18           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $175

I have a basketful of pastel pencils. I never use them. I used to pull them out because I thought I needed them to paint detail and fine lines. I wondered how on earth I would be able to paint small detail with the fat clunky pastel sticks?!  But as time went on and I had quite a few paintings under my belt I slowly developed a better handling of those fat sticks. I refined my control and I was able to make the most delicate mark with the latest softest stick in my box! What freedom! I didn't need the pastel pencils anymore. The pastel pencils made me color things in instead of painting them.

The other day I was cleaning the studio when I came across a small set of pastel pencils that I had won. They were unopened and looked so enticing and sharp! Maybe I did need them after all?
And they would be perfect for the painting that was up on my easel.

a small set of pastel pencils comes in handy

I discovered that the pastel pencils were perfect for creating the finer grass marks in my marsh painting. Now that I knew how to paint grass with fat pastel sticks I could transfer that same sensibility to the pencils. Now I wasn't coloring but I was painting and making loose and dancing broken lines. I will keep the pencils handy from now on for grasses and stems. I just need to remember NOT to make thick solid lines but let the pencil dance just as if it were a fat pastel!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Making Your Own Pastel Surfaces

'Summer Bounty'          8x10      pastel on board         ©Karen Margulis
available $150

I always forget how in love I am with a homemade pastel surface. Overtime I paint on a textured homemade surface I am reminded. This month over on my Patreon page we will be exploring pastel materials. One of the things we will do is make our own pastel surfaces. I will be sharing a recipe booklet and some videos and much more. In preparing for the month of lessons I made some textured boards. Why don't I do this more often!!

A quick and easy way to make a textured surface.

Working on a homemade surface is definitely cost effective but that is only one reason to try it. I love the feeling of texture I can create with my own pumice and gesso mix. It was the perfect surface to create the suggestion of the wheat stalks in my painting....without having to paint every stalk!

Do you work on a homemade surface?What is your favorite?

Close up. See the texture?

For just $4 you can join us on my Patreon page and explore this subject and much more! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis. I share new lessons and materials every day!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Importance of Seeing Shapes

'The Cows of Meauvaines'           5x7       plein air pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $45
It looked daunting. But I really wanted to paint them. The cows surrounded our home base and wandered the fields near our home. I wen tout each morning with the intention of painting the landscape but I kept being drawn back to those cows! But I would I paint them from life. They were always on the move or were changing positions. Would I be able to paint fast enough? I hesitated.

But then I remembered advice given to me when I first started painting. I was taking a workshop with Terry Ludwig. And somehow the subject of painting things other than landscapes came up. I expressed my fear of including figures or animals in my landscapes. His answer was simple.
  "They are only SHAPES"

They are just shapes. That made sense. If I stopped calling them by name and just looked at the shapes I should be able to paint the cows. It wouldn't even matter how quickly they moved because I could quickly capture their shape and gesture. Once I focused on the shapes and values within the shapes I was able to get a good impression of those French cows.

More French Cows        5x7       pastel

Friday, June 29, 2018

What to Keep in a Summer Sketchbook Kit

'Life in the Woods'           8x10          pastel           ©Karen Margulis
I am packing light for my upcoming trip to France. Well as light as I possibly can and still have all the art supplies I will need!  I am bringing my Heilman single sketchbox of pastels and my portfolio of 5x7 paper. I am also bringing my sketchbook! Since getting interested in keeping a sketchbook I have amassed quite a few sketching supplies....all kinds of pens, pencils and such. More than I want to bring with me. I needed to downsize my sketching supplies.

Wherever you go this summer consider packing a summer sketchbook. Choose a few supplies that fit into a small pouch. If you have a compact set up there will be no excuses!

My small sketchbook zippered pouch

The supplies I will take with me to Iceland
 Here is what I decided to pack in my Summer Sketchbook pouch:

  • Handbook sketchbook 6x6 
  • small watercolor set
  • travel retractable watercolor brush
  • small plastic container for water...not critical but it fit!
  • General's Sketch and Wash pencil....good for doing value sketches/washes
  • Vision pen...doesn't bleed when wet
  • Wooden Cretacolor lead holder for my pencil....I love how it feels
  • Tombow black brush pen....fun for gesture sketches
  • Caran d'Ache water brush to make washes with the water soluble graphite.
  • water soluble graphite pencils

Keeping a summer sketchbook will give you material for future paintings. Taking time to sit and observe and make a sketch will give you more information than merely taking a quick photo.
I have heard many artists share that they can remember more details of a place and time by looking back at a sketch than looking at a photo of the place.  Imagine how much this information will help you interpret your photos!

quick sketch inspired today's painting 

underpainting is Derwent Intense stick and alcohol wash