Monthly Archives: September 2014


COLORWHEELHere is an example of the well-known color wheel.  I painted this in watercolor several years ago, and it still comes in handy in composing works and in teaching students about color.  The colors to the right of the wheel are said to be “warm” colors, and the colors to the left are said to be “cool” colors.  The outer circle represents the undiluted color, the first inner circle represents what happens when white is added to the major color, and the inner circle represents what happens when colors opposite to each other are mixed.  The hues (colors) thus mixed are neutralized.

The hue at the top of the circle is yellow, to its right is yellow-orange, then orange, then red-orange, then red.  Continuing around the rest of the circle is red-purple, purple, blue-purple, blue, blue-green, green, and lastly yellow-green.  I’m sure most of you already know about this, but I’m starting out with the basics.  In the following weeks, I’ll elaborate and show examples of different color schemes that can be produced from the knowledge of the color wheel.

There are other versions of the color wheel and later on, I’ll write about some of those as well. So please follow my blogs for the next month or so to get the “whole picture!”




I wanted to share with you the pastel painting I recently did of my cat, Kalila.  I decided on a vertical composition because of the way cats love to sit up high.  It is pastel on board 29 x 16″ – still unframed.  I have entered it in the Pastel Society of the Southwest Show in Texas, but I don’t know if it’s been accepted or not as yet.  I chose the colors to complement the silky black of her fur. I call this painting “Wishful Thinking, ” because Kalila always wants to go outside.  I only let her out for a few minutes at a time.

Kalila is a tuxedo cat that we got from the Animal Shelter — already a grown cat, and it took a little while before she really accepted us.  She’s now eight years old.  Since my husband passed away last year, she’s become my number one buddy!  She sits on her tower and looks out the window when she’s not cat-napping.  Last night,  Kalila was sitting on my lap while I was watching TV.  I had the AETN show on about tigers,  and when Kalila saw that female tiger with her cubs,  she got off my lap and positioned herself directly in front of the TV.  She was enthralled and watched the entire show!  Guess I have a new TV buddy.  Hope she doesn’t think she can control the remote now!


Stafford_Wishful Thinking


There is a great deal of difference in how you make a detailed drawing in graphite pencil.  You can’t lay your pencil on the side and scumble back and forth for the proper value.  That doesn’t look too good. No, you must keep your pencil tip sharp and use it at a more upward angle.  If you want a drawing that is finely “rendered,” as opposed to just “sketching,” I recommend the following procedure.

The first step is an accurate drawing.  Not only are the positive shapes drawn correctly, but the shadows and highlights are also “mapped” out — which means their shapes are drawn as well.  Be sure that your objects are connected either by overlapping or cast shadows.  Here’s my example:

010 (2)The reason for the many cast shadows in this is because I have light sources in my set up – not a wise decision!  You notice that I have used a center line to make sure my objects are symmetrical, and that I have mapped out the reflections in the silver goblet.


My second example shows that I have layered a light value over all the shapes in my drawing.  I did this with a 2H pencil and covered up all the white paper.  I made sure not to lose the highlight and shadow shapes.

009In this final example, I have darkened the values with 2B-4B-6B pencils, and erased with an electric eraser where the highlights are.  The silver goblet now looks shiny.  This is a good way to depict texture in a drawing:  overall layering with a light pencil, darkening with softer pencils for the shadows, and erasing the highlights.  Try it on your next drawing.


I’m sure everyone remembers the old Chinese proverb, “One picture is worth more than a thousand words.”  A thousand words seem like a lot, but it does seem true that drawing is a universal language understood in all countries.   This is especially noticeable in expressing certain emotions.  I sometimes begin my basic drawing classes with an exercise that prompts students to make spontaneous marks on sketchbook paper as I call out a certain human emotion, such as ‘joy.’  After several of these words are called out, the students compare their drawings.  It is always amazing to note how much alike the drawings are for the emotions depicted.  I ask the students to use lines only, and not symbols. (Someone is always wanting to draw a heart for the word, “love.”)  Sometimes the lines can be joined to make shapes, but this is not necessary.

I ask my students to divide their sketchbook paper into 12 blocks, all about 2 x 3 inches each and number the blocks from 1 to 12.  Then I call out an emotion and have them quickly draw a line or lines to express that emotion.  The emotions used on the example below are 1. anger, 2. anxiety, 3. loneliness, 4. joy, 5. power, 6. love, 7. peace, 8. femininity, 9. fear, 10. depression, 11. masculinity, and 12. curiosity.  When the exercise is completed, the students compare their results with others in the class.  Some drawings as compared, such as anger, anxiety, and loneliness are almost identical!

Here are my results:



063  This is how I started that last pastel painting, “Cloudy Sky.”  I did an underpainting with grayed-down watercolor trying to keep it simple and only about 4-5 values.  When that dried, I began to apply hard pastels over the underpainting.

011  At first, I thought about adding a road in the foreground, but soon discarded that idea since my goal was to simplify and soften the landscape.  My sky was shaping up fairly well because of the watercolor underpainting.  The clouds seemed to have some motion.

012 I worked mostly from top to bottom, trying to keep the mountains in the distance by relating their values close to that of the sky.  I divided the middle ground into a separate plane and made the foreground a little warmer so that it seemed closer.  I wanted especially to get a feeling of distance while still keeping it soft and moody.  The tree in the foreground (my center of interest) was completed with little strokes of several greens and purples, with a little yellow ochre.

Cloudy Skies

And this is the final version as shown in my last post.  All in all, I had about 5 layers of pastel atop the original underpainting.  Purples and greens are muted, but there’s a suggestion of a road with a fence in the farthest plane.  Yellow ochre is used as an accent.

Does it help to see how the painting progressed from beginning to end?  The biggest problem is knowing when to stop!