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farmlandWell, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.”  Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle.  This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework.  Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor.  I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes.  A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site.  Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register  (501- 851-4344).   I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.



I spent two weeks painting these six “word portraits” to take with me to the Delta Arts Festival in Newport last week, and not a one sold!  Guess I thought others would like the words of scripture displayed in their house.  I was inspired by my priest’s chasuble he wears Sundays in ordinary time.  It says “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” across the front.  At any rate, here are the images — the acrylic paintings are 11 x 14″ and I’ll sell any of them for $25.  The embellishments are symbolic – at least to me!  Might make nice gifts — who knows!  Comment if you like them, please

peace believe hope joy love trust


Knowing about the basic proportions of the head is fine, but what happens when the artist doesn’t have a frontal view, or the head is tilted causing foreshortening?  A bigger problem, of course.  Actually, a profile view is easiest of all to draw because you have the negative space to help, and maybe because you only have one eye, one ear, one nostril, one-half of the lip to draw! At any rate, most people would not like to have their portrait done head on – like a wanted poster.  The best view for portraits is a 3/4 view.

And if the head is tilted upward, or downward, the basic proportions of 1/3, or 1/2 no longer work.  If the head tilts upward, you see more of the chin, neck, nostrils, etc. and less of the forehead.  The proportional ‘thirds” diminish near the top of the head, and the nose appears above the lower part of the ear.  If the head tilts downward, you will see more of the hair, the forehead and less of the eyes, lips and nose.  The top “third” seems to be larger and the nose is below the lower part of the ear.  Always remember to find the center line and the slant of the head.  Notice the curves in the vertical and horizontal center lines.  Here are some examples.  Although not the best drawings in the world, you can see what happens in each case.





First of all, I’ve had computer problems this week, so I’m late in posting this.   I’m back on track however!

If you divide the color wheel equidistantly, you will have a triangle  and thusly, a triadic color scheme.  This becomes a highly contrasting scheme and could be difficult to pull off! You will need to mix two of the colors together to make semineutrals.  Your scheme will be either warm or cool dominant depending on the intense color used.  If done well, you will have an exciting color composition.

Use of the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) become a triadic color scheme, but some of the other colors are easier to work with.  This first example is using Ultramarine Blue, Indian Red, and Hooker’s Green.  These correspond to blue-violet, yellow-green, and red-orange on the color wheel.  I didn’t use a lot of neutrals in this. so there’s a lot of intensity.


In this next example, I used Manganese Blue, Raw Sienna, and Violet.  These relate to blue-green, yellow-orange, and red-violet on the color wheel. I subdued the violet and raw sienna, so that the yellow-orange is dominant.  Which one do you like the best?  It’s a lot of fun trying out these color exercises, not to mention how much you learn from them.  If you’re interested in this, read Stephen Quiller’s book, Color Choices: Making Sense out of Color Theory.  That’s where I got my inspiration.



Split complementary

The split-complementary color scheme is just what it says:  the complement of one color is split on either side so that it is a 3-color scheme.  What happens is that one color temperature becomes dominant and the other is subordinate.  Another way of looking at is is to select three analogous colors and then look for the complement of the middle color.  In this way, a harmonious relationship is provided as well as an accent color that enlivens the composition.  This color scheme is found in nature most often with the hues blue, green, and orange.

To choose your colors, ask yourself what mood you want to convey.  Cool colors convey a feeling of peace and calm while warm colors could be used to show activity, vibrancy, brightness.   One or two colors could be neutralized while the accent color is used in its intensity.

In my first example, I used a split-complementary scheme of yellow, orange-red, and blue violet.  The analogous colors where used predominantly, and the blue-violet was subdued and used only sparingly.  It’s a hot summer day!


In my second example, I used a split-complementary scheme of red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow.  The warms are dominant, and the yellow is partly subdued.  A night scene is suggested.  This is a good exercise for you to try – let me know how it turns out!









     In this abstracted 16 x 16″ landscape, I was trying to use one of the six basic  value  schemes mentioned by Edgar Whitney.  The scheme was a little dark with a lot of light in medium values.  I seldom use this value scheme; that’s why I wanted to try it.  I also wanted to continue breaking up the picture plane into sections, but still be able to lead the eye movement to the center of interest (the barn in the upper right area).  As usual, I worked out the value and color scheme in my sketchbook and decided to use a split-complementary color scheme: blue, red orange, orange, and yellow orange.  The acrylic colors I used were Cadmium Orange, Hansa Yellow, Indian Yellow,  Thalo Blue, Prussian Blue, Raw sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cadium Red Light and Titanium White.  (At least, that’s what I think I used — hard to remember now!)


A good way to plan a composition is to use recognizable color schemes.  Each color scheme has its own appeal and mood.  As I wrote about previously, complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel.  Complementary color schemes can be pretty chaotic unless one color is used as a predominant, and the other is subordinate.  I used a simple composition in the following watercolor studies (5 x 7″) to show how value, intensity, dominant and subordinate color affects the mood. 

Comp1 STUDY I  

I used blue as the dominant hue in this first small study in values from light   to dark.  The complement, orange, was used as an accent.  The study seems to suggest evening with some light from the sinking sun.


I reversed the colors in this second small study, using orange as the dominant and blue as the subordinate colors.   The oranges are used in a variety of values from light to dark, and the accent of blue is used both dark and light in the foreground grasses and in the tree trunks.  A little blue can also be found in the texture of the barn. Do you see the difference in the mood?


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!





A pastel painting in the series

Cloudy Skies

Here is the second in my series of moody, misty landscapes.  It may be my last in pastel, since the cost of framing pastel paintings is cutting into my retirement money!  The next ones will be acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas.  They will need no framing!

I’m calling this one “Cloudy Sky” for obvious reasons.  I would welcome better names from any of you — naming a painting is sometimes problematic!  This one is very greyed down to invoke a rather ominous mood.  Aerial perspective plays a large part in showing distance; there are several planes between the foreground, middle ground, and background.  Mountains in the distance are a mid violet grey.  The sky is full of grey clouds just waiting to drop the rain on the green field below.  Colors are muted purples, greens, with a little orange for an accent.   There are some blue and ochre tones as well.  The size is 15 x 23″ unframed.  Let me know what you think about this one.