So much science in art

My beginning students learn that there is a lot of science in art.  This is an old article but I kept it to reblog:  A neuroscientist working in an art museum.  I was prompted to blog it today after having a conversation yesterday with a lady who had just completed her masters in psychology and was hoping to consult in the corporate world, rather than enter private medical practice, and to incorporate art into her work.  Maybe we’ll work together on something…..


A thousand words…

A couple days ago one of my Absolute Beginners students came to the studio for some follow-up lessons.  She had been practicing in the intervening year and had also bought some books containing lessons.  They were fine books and she had learned a lot from them as you can see from the work she produced that she showed me.

Student watercolor work

Some of this students work. Yes, I know it’s a photoshop together, just couldn’t get the right angle for a table-top shot.

Nevertheless, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and a youtube video a million, then sometimes a little bit of extra in-person instruction is priceless. Sometimes I’ve shown students the difference between the brushstrokes they’re making and what they need to do to get the effect they’re aiming for by making the two types of brushstroke on their inner arm. Often it’s also picking up on the slight difference between to two in order to guide them.

Monthly newsletter for February

Here’s what’s happened and happening at Skyscapes in February.

Student progression.

About 15 months ago, ‘Jo’ took my absolute beginner’s class.  Earlier in the month, she took the class again, not having painted very much in between.  One of the things that I ask at the beginning of the class is what the student hopes to get out of it.  It can help me tailor the class a little to hopefully cover any specific items. In this class Jo was lucky in that she was the only one, so we got to discuss her progress a little more.

She had indeed painted the day before, using watercolor crayons.  The papers were tiny piece of printer or drawing paper – not the best surface.  Jo expressed that she had had difficulty making out what she had painted afterwards and had ended up using ink to define the items painted.  Towards the end of the afternoon, after the standard Shadows exercise, we looked at Jo’s paintings and I thought we could tackle one of them as a larger watercolor and make a more realistic painting.

Working a little larger does help.  This time we used watercolor paper (Canson 140lb cold press) – about 12×9″.  I drew a quick value sketch first on a scrap to outline some of the changes that we would make to make the little barrel cacti look more round, and the rocks “rocky”.  The main adjustments were addition of shadows/shading to bring out the shapes of the cacti and rocks.  I suggested a simple blue sky/purple hills/sandy mid-ground behind the cacti in order to make them stand out from it, rather than a green one of a similar tone.  The cacti flowers didn’t come out as well as hoped – I’m not by nature a floral painter and they were a little on the small side to do much more with than a bit of impressionism.

Jo said her husband thought everything she painted was wonderful, but when he came to pick her up after the class and we showed him the before and after, there was no faking those eyebrows shooting skyward.  Here’s the before (on the right! 🙂 ) and the after.

After and before cactus paintings

Monday’s cactus painting on the right, and Tuesday’s redo with Absolute Beginners class and a little individual guidance.

Conejo Barn

On Monday I taught my regular class at the Trilogy gated community.  I caught a few students working on the last few stages of their exercises.  They all want to remain anonymous so no faces!  The last one is from one student who took it home and completed it later.





It’s easier to do those wires by painting down, rather than up.


Children and art

Sometimes it is difficult to take kids to art fairs as they always want to touch.  I’m always happy to point out to parents that my work is pretty kid proof and if they poke at it, I won’t have to cut their hands off 🙂 which usually is a relief as it’s often too late at that point.

I follow the Red Dot blog of Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He covers a lot of interesting topics (though sadly he doesn’t transmit on WordPress).  I was really interested in his blog of August 9th about kids looking at art in museums and galleries.

From what he says about children appreciating museum/gallery art, it seems like art fairs are a little more interesting for little ones – for a start there’s frequently something hung at their eye level in a booth, some of it (like the one below) would be ideal for a child’s room, and there aren’t quite such strict rules about running between displays.  Occasionally I will get a youngster who comes back to subsequent shows with enthusiasm – and I know that I can’t be the only artist who enjoys this phenomenon, so here and there, future collectors are being created.


#1271 Night Watch.  Mixed media on panel (refractured watercolor, poetry, acrylic). 14×24″.

Beginners’ class

Serendipity struck earlier in the week when a couple of ladies who were rv camping at nearby Johnson’s Landing discovered on the internet that I hold art classes and called up to see what the options might be.  Well, they were interested in the “Beginning painting” class that I had planned on running in Borrego Springs that day, but hadn’t had any students.  But, seeing as there is enough space in my living room to hold a small class, and there were only two of them, they came on Thursday to spend the day learning a lot of basics, and to do a little practice in between some of the theories.  It’s the first time I’ve taught this class and I was working from my crib sheet a little, but the timing of the class worked out just as I’d planned for a one-day intensive class.  I’ll also be offering this class as a series of four 2-2.5 hour classes in La Quinta next month so I was able to see where I need to make a couple of adjustments to divide the class up more evenly into four.

students in class

Putting together almost everything we’ve learned in one painting.

Of course I got so involved in enjoying teaching the class I didn’t think to take a photo until they were on the last exercise.  But after a long afternoon and evening in Yuma, it was really nice to be able to work in my slippers!