Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Issue: Scary Paintings

If we think our movies and television shows are bad and grisly, get a load of this stuff done by some of the greatest. Warning: some of this is not for the faint of heart. It's all very maddening.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”                                                   —Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Let's start with a mild one.
Head of a skeleton with a burning cigarette, Vincent Van Gogh 1886

Now I've had some scary dreams, but this one takes the cake. Look at that demon.

The Nightmare, John Henry Fuseli 1781

Remember not to call ole Saturn over to watch your first born! Pretty creepy.

Saturn, Jupiter's Father, devours his own son,
Peter Paul Rubens 1636-38
I've seen this one up close and personal. Even worse in real life. Considered very famous! It covers approximately 7ft x 12ft. What was in Bosch's head?

Garden of Earthly Delights, Hironymus Bosch Triptych 1480-1505
Close up of one little section: 

This is not "beam me up Scotty." Something's gone horribly wrong.

Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X,
Francis Bacon 1953
These are not folks you want over for dinner. Army of skeletons attacking peasants. I've also seen this one in person and you find yourself mesmerize. Every inch is incredulous. 

The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1562
This is how my head feels when I have had too many glasses of my favorite vino. Oh it hurts so much.

Deterioration of Mind over Matter, Otto Rapp 1973
So when you feel our generation's media is getting out of hand, just remember, there's been awful, weird people before us!


Glastonbury Studios' Sketch'n-on-the-Go Series Presents

Watercolor Sketching CruiseSeptember 14-21 2018

Autumn in Watercolors(watercolors, pen and ink)

New England and Canada
Seven Days only $839
Workshop tuition: $700

*Plus fees and taxes,  PP, DO; rates subject to change

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sketching trip to England

Just over two weeks ago we were visiting Ireland and England. The Glastonbury Studios' sketching trip to England included a fun-filled time in the market town of Marlborough. We had five students.

A favorite of King John, Marlborough has roots dating back over 5,000 years. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conquerer spread his power and influence throughout England. One such places was in Marlborough where a motte and bailey castle was built--somewhat like a wood fort situated on a raised mound and surrounded by a ditch.

Rendering of what a motte and bailey castle looked like
Interestingly the mound on which this castle was built is actually a burial mound dating back to 2400 BC. There is a legend that Merlin was buried there and it was called Merlin's Borough, thus the name for Marlborough. 

The great part is that today the mound stands inside Marlborough College and we were able to climb it (64 feet high) and stand on top of nearly 5,000 years of history.

Along with its great history, Marlborough is a paradise of old relic buildings and pathways, a lovely river park, lots of shopping and great sketching opportunities. Just outside the town, you can find wonderful walking trails that can lead to the Ridgeway, built when England had a land bridge to the continent. 

One of many alleys that take you
into some quaint settings.
St. Peter and Paul, a favorite for King Charles.

Lots of shops and eateries.

Housing along the river and park.

As always, I hired a van to take us to the little village of Avebury. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, Avebury is far better than its top "competitor," Stonehenge. For one, it's less crowded. Secondly you can walk right up to the massive stones and thirdly, it's far easier to sketch because you can get up so close and personal. Plus, there are sheep all over the grounds. But no matter what time of year we go to Avebury, it's always raining. So we always have to do a quick sketch and move on!

Those white dots aren't sheep, they're massive stones
set into a circle.

Lovely teacher's college

The gift shop that oozes with history.
Stone barn

If you want to sketch sheep, Avebury is the best place.
You won't see this at Stonehenge. 

Here's how tall these stones are. Compare the
students' height with the stone.

Of course, we had to jump on the local bus to take us to Chiseldon, where we usually stay in the Chiseldon House Hotel (no room in the inn this year because of a wedding). The interesting highlight of this trip was that we met a thatcher who was thatching a roof. We also went over to the hotel and they let us sketch their lovely courtyard.

Watching a thatcher work in real time. Fascinating.

The sketching gals hard at work.

Lacock and Castle Combe
Another day and onto the van again. This time to visit the old villages of Lacock and Castle Combe. Both of them do not have power lines or TV aerials on the streets/houses. So they are perfect places for films to be shot. Lacock has been home to Harry Potter and parts of Downtown Abbey. Castle Combe hosted Iron Horse, Dr. Doolittle, Stardust and parts for TV programs, such as Robin Hood and Poirot.

So there's a tale to tell on this day. We pretty much got to see most of each village, but really didn't have much time to sketch because of the rain.  So instead we were able to visit the Lacock's bakery, church and the oldest licensed pub in the kingdom. The George Inn. While warming up in the pub, we heard a story about the original fireplace (which my husband looked up and found to only be partially true) by the owner. All I can say is that it made for extra entertainment, while enjoying our warm drinks.

The tale told to us was partially true. It was how the
spit was turned in the fireplace--first by children, then by
small dogs.

I'm just in love with the stone work through this area.
Notice how worn the front stoop is.

A side shot of a typical Lacock house.

I read the living rooms had to be big enough to hold a loom. Lacock was a
cottage-industry town.

Village church.

Castle Combe

We only had a few minutes before it started to rain and I mean rain. Fortunately, we found a wonderful little inn  (above) that gave us shelter. Then they served us a scrumptious cream tea (tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam) in the lobby to warm our shivering bodies.

As you enter Castle Combe you do feel like you're entering
another era, especially when there are no cars!
14th century Market Cross
More charming houses

Houses along the river

Wow, I've been to Bath over a dozen times and I still see or experience something new! We got to the city by 9 a.m. and were able to grab a bench in the courtyard before the Roman Bath/Pump Room complex and the Bath Abbey. It was sort of like being in heaven. The crowds hadn't come in yet, the sun was shining on us (yay) and in the distance you could hear an opera singer whose voice drifted to where we were sitting to lift up our souls. Bath is known for street entertainers including sculptors, artist and dancers. Always something new!

We visited two spots. The courtyard and the Pulteney Bridge, which is similar to the Ponte Vecchio  (old bridge) in Florence, Italy. Built during our revolution, the bridge is populated with several small shops. My favorite being the Bath Stamp and Coin Shop. Back in 2000, we learned that the first stamp originated from Bath. We also were able to collect a goodly amount of old Roman coins (usually found on the old trails) and letters written, sent and delivered before stamps. While their inventory is limited these days, it was still a great place to stop to "ooh and aah. "

Amazing balancing act. He even had water pouring onto a cup.

Pulteney Bridge and River Avon

Another view of bridge and attached buildings

Here's another field trip that blows me away. About 30 miles south of Marlborough, the city of Salisbury has the tallest steeple in England, rising from the famous Salisbury Cathedral. An added bonus is that one of the original copies of the Magna Carta is on display in the chapter room. I still get the shivers when I see it.

The cathedral

One of the four entrances into the grounds
Market Cross

One of many carvings of the dearly departed. This one
attracts my attention to the detailed carving, especially the pillow.
So that covers a few of the many pictures we took and the places we visited. Next outing will be Boston to Quebec in September 2018.

What's coming up:

Next set of six-week classes begin the last week of October and end the second week of December (no class during Thanksgiving week). If you are intersted, please email:

Pencil to Brush
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be a special project.
Every Tuesday morning*
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term

Full (wait list)

The Morning Draw
Every Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Full (wait list)

Pencil to Brush 
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be a special project.
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term
For more information email:


Glastonbury Studios One-Day Workshops
All studio workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes supplies and lunch. The cost is $85. Class size is limited to nine students. Pre-registration is required. Only payment reserves your seat.
For full description of workshops see: Workshop Catalog

Drawing using stippling and pointillism
with ink and markers

October 14 (Full--wait list)

Drawing Cats
November 4

Drawing in Pen and Ink
November 18 (Full--wait list)

Drawing in Realism
December 2

Register by email:


Upcoming 2018 Sketching Cruise

Sketching Fall Colors 
7-Day Sketching Cruise
New England and Canada

Friday, Sep 14 - 21, 2018

Cruise $799 (PPDO) plus fees & taxes*
Workshop Tuition: $700

*Rates subject to change.

For more information or to register please email:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tips on buying paper for watercolor media

Whichever watercolor medium you are using: paint, watercolor pencils, markers or even watered-down acrylic paint, you need to be careful of what papers you buy.

What's best?
When I started out in fine arts, of course I would buy the least expensive because I didn’t want to invest too much money into something I may hate. Seems to make sense. Except when you are using bad materials, you often have bad results. As a teacher once said, "A bad painting is either the artist or the materials." Hmmm.

As a case in point, I had a teacher who recommended Strathmore watercolor paper, what I now call wood-pulp paper. I was new to watercolor, so I went out and bought the stuff. But no matter how hard I tried, I never got the paint to look like anything I saw in magazines or books. The paint literally just sat on top of the paper, never really penetrating it.

Then, I took a weekend workshop on watercolor painting. Fortunately, the instructor supplied the materials (something I truly appreciate). This is where I learned about using the right paper for the right job. It's best to use 100% cotton, not the stuff that's made from trees and/or other materials.  The entire process changed for me. Suddenly I witnessed watercolor pouring and blending over the paper with ease. It was wonderful.

Below is an example of how watercolor paint reacts on wood pulp paper and cotton paper. Notice the rooster painted on the left is on the Strathmore paper, while the one of the right is 100% cotton. It makes a difference.

So, here's my best recommendation: don’t buy the cheap stuff.  And most importantly, if you are using a wet medium, your paper needs to somewhat thick and tough. Below you will find a chart for a variety of papers. 

Paper companies

All of the above paper companies are fine. I use them all; my favorite is Sanders-Waterford from England, but Arches (France) and Fabriano (Italy) are good as well. Stonehenge paper is wonderful. I use it for my colored pencils but have found it to be great for water-soluble pencils as well. In fact, Stonehenge has just come out with their "aqua" brand specifically for water media.

Paper characteristics
There are three basic types of paper: hot press, cold press and rough. Also, there are three ways to make paper. Let's talk about the former first. Paper can be:
  • Handmade with deckle edges on all four side (usually rather expensive)
  • Mold-made, although done on machines created with deckle edges on two sides (reasonably priced)
  • Machine, may have deckle edge,but made by machines, using wood pulp
All good artist quality paper is made from 100% cotton because of its strength and longevity. There's a belief that the paper will last one year equal to the amount of cotton in the paper. Thus, good paper should last 100 years. There's evidence regarding this with the preservation of many papers from our human history.

By the way, there are some papers on the market that have only 25% cotton that I like, especially for sketching. I often use Fabriano studio paper and Pentalic's Nature Sketching sketchbook, both of which have 25% cotton. My rule of thumb is that I don't spend a lot of money for sketching paper--it's not usually for a final, frameable  project. 

Beside the fiber content of your paper, you should always buy paper that is acid free which may not be the case with wood pulp paper. Let me tell you why. I once spend hours on a colored pencil project using newsprint paper. Today that lovely drawing has not only yellowed, but the paper is also beginning to disintegrate (another early days mistake). 

The surface of your paper is a major consideration as well. You can get cold press, which is a bit more textured or bumpy as I refer to it or you can get hot press, which is a very smooth surface, also called plate. The cold press paper is used worldwide by watercolor artists. The hot press can be use for ink, watercolor wash, water-soluble pencils and even colored pencils. I love the hot press paper that Saunders-Waterford create. And one thing, there is the rough surface, which is exactly what is sounds like--rough, toothy, gritty. It's hard to work on (for me).

As I said above when working with a wet medium, you need good sturdy paper. That's when paper weight comes in. You can buy paper of course as thin as your ordinary copy paper at 20# but I can assure you that if you try to use copy paper with watercolor, you'll have a wiggly, wobbly paper after you're done.

Papers come in higher weights but what you want to hone in on is at least 90#. This is the least weight that can hold wet, but it will have to be stretched. In other words. wet paper taped down on all edges to a board to keep it from causing hills and valleys. The same is true for 140#. I often buy papers in blocks where the paper is pre-stretched and glue to the edges. I used to love stretching paper, but have found it easier just to buy the blocks.

If you go higher than 140#, such as 156#, 200# and 300#, you'll find that you can eliminate the stretching, but I have to warn you, if you are going to use a lot of water on even the heavier papers, be warned, the paper can still ripple. In the end. I usually use 140# paper for my water-soluble pencil on hot press. I don't work on massive projects, so this combination really works for me. 

Paper colors
In recent years there have been two types of white watercolor paper introduced. Along with traditional white, you will see bright white or high white. The latter has such a brighter white that enhances vivid colors and brighter highlights.

I did some experimenting this past spring while preparing for a workshop and I found that Stonehenge (drawing) lends itself nicely to water soluble pencils, as you can see below. The colors went down beautifully and wetting never caused a wrinkle. Having said that though, I do not believe this paper would tolerate heavy washes; that's where the Stonehenge Aqua would a better choice.

Experiment using Stonehenge paper (drawing) for
watercolor pencil. Worked well.

How papers are sold: pads, blocks and sheets
As I mentioned above, you can purchase a lot of watercolor paper products in pad form or what’s called block. That’s when several papers are glued together, all way round the edge to avoid stretching. Although if you use heavy watered washes, you’ll still experience buckling.  The other way to purchase paper is by buying big sheets, usually 22” x 30”. I have a tendency to buy paper this way. I simply cut the paper to the size I want. Sometimes you can find real bargains on line, but generally, you can expect to pay five dollars or more per sheet.

A word to the wise 
Don't be like me (in my early art career). Buy the best paper you can afford. There's simply no substitute for using the right tools for the right job.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Reading Anyone?

I love to read about artists. It’s good to learn about their struggles and successes. Often I find myself more inspired than ever. So I thought that perhaps it would be fun to cover a few books I have read in the past. Perhaps it can help you with your summer reading list.

Lust for Life (1934) Fiction
by Irving Stone
I never really understood Vincent Van Gogh until I read the biographical novel, Lust for Life. Irving Stone went to great lengths to make this story accurate, using Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo and even visiting Holland, Belgium and France for "on-field" work. 

I loved being taken back through time to enter the life of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists years. You can almost feel Vincent’s pain and madness with an ending that was much sadder than the film, starring Kirk Douglas.

By the way, Lust for Life was Stone’s first major publication. The book was rejected 17 times over three years. Hope you’ll enjoy the journey

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) Fiction
by Irving Stone

Another great work by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy, is the story of Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famous sculptor, painter and architect. Stone researched for this book over a period of six years, first having the artist’s correspondence translated as well as doing his “on-field” work  in Florence, Rome, Carrara and Bologna. 

What I admire about the author, other than his descriptive writing, is his dedication to detail, even visiting the quarry where Michelangelo chose his stone.

Stone does an absolute job of bringing the Renaissance era to life and recounting the struggles the artists of the time experienced not only to accomplish what they wanted but to serve (and sometimes battle with) the aristocracy and the church.

Depths of Glory (1983) Fiction
by Irving Stone
Yes, I’m a fan of Stone. There’s another book he wrote, Depths of Glory, that covers the life of Camille Pissarro. Not known by a lot of people, Pissarro was the oldest of the Impressionists by as much as ten years, but was highly influential on the group. He never really earned a lot of money, usually poor as dirt, but very prolific. 

The one story I remember most from this book is when Pissarro returns to his countryside home from London after seeking safety for he and his family during the Franco-Prussian War. 

Upon arriving home he learns that twenty years' worth of his work has been destroyed. Only 40 paintings had survived because a neighbor had saved them. The Prussians had used his house as a stable and his painted canvases as aprons when butchering the pigs and as floor mats in the garden walkways.

Depths of Glory is another wonderful book where Stone takes you by the hand and leads you on a fantastic journey through yesterday’s artists and the history that surrounds them.

Van Gogh, The Life (2012) Non-Fiction
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
While we’re on the subject of Van Gogh, I highly recommend another book that hit the New York Times Best Seller's list: Van Gogh, The Life. Complete with a family tree, illustrations and maps, this volume gives you an all-encompassing account of Vincent’s life and his relationship with his family and friends. What’s most interesting is the appendix that talks about the peculiarity surrounding his death. Although lengthy, nearly 1000 pages long, the book is rather entertaining and easy to read.

Sacré Bleu A Comedy D'art (2012) Fiction
by Christopher Moore

What a fun, strange and interesting book. A student recommended this book to me, and I’m glad she did.

You’ll learn more about Van Gogh but more importantly about the mysterious Colorman. Part mystery, part love story, part art history, Sacré Bleu is well worth the read.

Here are some others:
Claude & Camille: A novel of Monet  (2011) Fiction
by Stephanie Cowell
Wonderful love story

Private Lives of the Impressionist s (2007) Non-Fiction
by Sue Roe
One of my favorites. Superb account of the Impressionists, learning history, struggles, very inspiring

Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O’Keefe (1997) Non-Fiction
by Laurie Lisle
Good story, interesting read. Helped my understanding of O’Keefe’s artwork and life.

American Mirror: Life and Art of Norman Rockwwell (2013) Non-Fiction
by Deborah Solomon
Great story. But disappointed when I learned that as a commercial artist he was forced to trace everything. Deadlines wait for no man!

By the way, to learn more about the Impressionists and other artists go to the left hand column to the Blog Archive Links. I have covered many of the artists mentioned in this article.

What's Coming Up

Glastonbury Studios One-Day Workshops
All studio workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes supplies and lunch. The cost is $85. Class size is limited to ten students. Pre-registration is required. Only payment reserves your seat.
For full description of workshops see: 
Workshop Catalog

Drawing with Pastels/Oil and Soft
August 5

Beginning Acrylics
September 30

Stippling with ink and markers
October 14

Register by email:


Fall Classes begin Last week of September
Weeks of 9/24-10/22

Come join the fun while learning how to draw and/or paint in the Glastonbury Studios classes. Five-week term; limited to six students per class. Pre-registration and payment needed to secure your seat. To sign up for classes in my studio, please email me.

Pencil to BrushWe will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Tuesday morning*

10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Evening Draw
Pen and Ink
Every Tuesday evening*
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Morning Draw
Pen and Ink
Every Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term 

Pencil to Brush 
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term
For more information email: