The "Big Time"

Yes, it's the Big Time for me. My award-winning painting, "In The Spotlight," is currently on exhibit in Clarksville, Tennessee, which is northwest of Nashville on the Kentucky border. But wait, there's more.... The hosting venue, the Customs House Museum, chose my painting to feature on the show banner which is hanging on the exterior of the historic building! I am surprised and honored.

My friend Mike, the subject in my painting and a native of Nashville, visited the exhibit with his wife Debra and sent me this great photo of himself with the banner.

The exhibit continues until February 3rd and is the last stop in the Traveling Show of the Tennessee Watercolor Society's biennial exhibition, so stop in if you are in that area. Visit their gift shop too, where prints of my painting are for sale.

Art Sale - 25% Off!

Need a special gift for Christmas or an upcoming event? Want to treat yourself to some fine art? Here's your chance... at a great savings!

From now through Dec. 31, 2016, any purchase of my artwork from the Tellico Art Center which totals $100 or more will automatically receive 25% OFF. Choose from original paintings in watercolor and acrylic, limited edition signed prints, open edition prints, notecards, mugs, mousepads and more. See my new 2017 calendar, with one of my paintings gracing each month. With a wide range of prices, you can cover everyone on your Christmas list.

The Tellico Art Center is at 113 Scott Street in Tellico Plains TN. December hours are 11am - 6pm Thur-Sat or by appointment. For more information, call 423-253-3003.

The gallery will be open and serving refreshments for the annual Christmas Candlelight Walk on Saturday, Dec. 3rd, so be sure to stop by.


My paintings cover a wide variety of subjects, but if I had to restrict myself to one, I'd pick dog portraits. Every furry face has its distinct characteristics and I love to hone in on each one's uniqueness.  I also know how much pleasure I get from seeing my doggies' faces in the portraits I've done, particularly those who have passed away, and it pleases me to be able to do this for others.
Maggie Mae

The eyes are particularly important in my pet portraits, since that's usually where the viewer's gaze is first drawn. One of the few pet portraits I've done which didn't have a strong eye-emphasis is my own Maggie Mae - I did her portrait when she was still in her "ADD" phase and never looked at us directly for more than a few seconds! (She's getting better now, at age 3).

As with most of my artwork, I rely heavily on photo references for dog portraits. My recent work, "Tyson," proved to be an unusual challenge. Sadly, the pit bull had died suddenly after being hit by a car, so I had to work from existing photos. Tyson's "mom" and some friends wanted to surprise his "dad," David, with the painting, to help with the loss of his beloved pal. The friends had commissioned me to paint their beloved dog Baron, a German Shepherd, several years ago. I was provided with several snapshots of Tyson, but, of course, none had actually been taken to capture the dog at his best; I had Tyson in a party hat, Tyson in a t-shirt, Tyson in the snow. Like most photos taken on smart phones these days, these were all low resolution images. So the details in the fur, the features, and the various textures - which I enjoy depicting - were not distinguishable.
Reference snapshots

I finally decided to use a photo of Tyson on a couch with his baby sister. This showed him in profile, sitting up straight and alert. Unfortunately, his upright ears were cropped out of the shot. Googling "pit bull photos" brought up images of this breed in many different colors of fur and various poses and viewpoints. I finally found a shot of another pit in profile which was good enough to help me fill in what was missing in the Tyson photo.
This was the photo I relied upon for the portrait.

I simplified the background for my painting, blending some warm grey mid-range tones which would work well against Tyson's white and brown fur. The photo of Tyson had good shadows in his upper body which helped me define his muscle form. I did the best I could at sharpening up his eye and detailing the nose, but had to settle for a bit less detail than I usually incorporate in my paintings.

The most important part, in the end, was that David was pleased with the portrait of Tyson, telling me "You did an amazing job - it's beautiful!" I hope it will warm his heart every time he looks at the painting.

You Can Own It Too!

"Barnyard Bouquet" is one of my paintings which several people have told me they would like to purchase. Too late now... the original was bought by my sweet friend Ginny and hangs in her flower-filled sunroom. By popular demand, I've just produced a limited edition of signed and numbered giclee prints, so it can hang on your wall too!

The new prints are on canvas, just as I painted the original, and they are museum quality. The reproduction quality is so good that the prints are hard to tell from original. They are a standard size, 11" x 14", and priced at $100, unframed. The sides of the canvas are black and the canvas is attached to the back side of the wood stretchers, so the artwork could actually be hung with no frame. But, for those who want a more finished look, ready-made frames are sold to fit this size at craft and hobby stores, or a custom frame with a white linen liner would look fabulous!

These days there are many ways to make reproductions on canvas and paper. I always have my giclees made by fine art reproduction studios. This way I am assured that the surface, the pigments, and the protective surface coatings adhere to high standards.

What is a "GICLEE"? The “giclée” (pronounced gee-clay) print represents the finest technology in digital fine art limited editions. The process began as an "iris" print, which I first used as a commercial artist back in the 80s for pre-press color proofing. But these early versions used inks which faded fast and they were not printed on quality paper, because they were meant to have a short shelf life... discarded soon after being viewed. As the Iris printing process became familiar to photographers and artists, the demand grew for long-lasting permanent pigments and high quality surfaces. Rock musician Graham Nash, an accomplished black and white photographer, spearheaded the drive to use the Iris technology for museum-quality reproductions in the late 1980s. His fame likely helped move the process forward, and Iris prints morphed into fine art Giclee prints. Nash's original IRIS 3047 graphics printer is now in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History! Nash Editions still offers fine quality digital giclee printmaking services to photographers and artists from all around the world.

I was attracted to giclée reproductions many years ago, when I first decided to make prints from my paintings, because this technology captures the detail and subtle color nuances of my original paintings better than other printing methods. A giclée exhibits the look and feel of the original painting, right down to the surface it is printed on - archival paper or artist’s canvas. The giclée ink is waterbased – like the watercolor and acrylic pigments I paint with. The giclée process is truly a high tech marriage of fine art, graphic art, and state of the art.

With many years of graphic experience (I could be considered a dinosaur in the field!) I make fine color adjustments to my own digital photographs until they match my original artwork. When the image is correct, the digital files are transmitted to a giclee printer, which is a very high-end ink-jet type of fine art printer. Giclée is a French word which means “squirt” or “spurt” and alludes to the production process, where the printer squirts approximately 4 million microscopic droplets of ink per second from each of its precision nozzles, creating a continuous tones of color. The name was likely chosen to make it sound exotic (makes me think of "Häagen-Dazs," invented in the Bronx to make people relate the ice cream to high quality Danish dairy products!). In the giclee process, each particle of color is defined by these microscopic droplets of ink (the droplet is four times smaller than a human hair). This allows for the capture of the finest detail from the original painting, with the highest resolution possible. Even under a magnifying glass, the giclée print looks like an original.

Each of my giclées is signed and numbered and provided with a certificate of authenticity.  A giclée should be handled as fine art; frame a giclée on paper with matting and glazing and hang away from direct sunlight or accidental exposure to moisture. A giclée on canvas can be framed without matting and glazing, like an original painted canvas. My canvas giclées have a top coating with UV protection, and the surface can, and should, be dusted as needed with a soft dry cloth. Giclée printing has become a fine art in itself, and art museums now recognize and hang artwork reproduced as fine art giclées.

See the Show Winners

The 2016 Tennessee Watercolor Society Exhibition winners are now posted on the organization's website, so if you didn't see the show in Knoxville you can have a look here. Click on any of the images for a larger view. I am proud to be included with my painting "In The Spotlight," which you can read about in my previous blog posts.

Judy and "In The Spotlight" at the Knoxville showing
My painting was also chosen as one of 30 in the Travelling Exhibition. In order for the Exhibition to be enjoyed in other parts of Tennessee, the Traveling Exhibition brings award winning paintings and others selected by the juror to six additional public venues around the state. The schedule for this show is:
  • JULY: WKNO, Memphis; 7151 Cherry Farms Rd., Cordova TN
  • AUGUST: West Tennessee Regional Art Center, 1200 Main St., Humboldt TN
  • SEPTEMBER: Pryor Gallery, Columbia State Community College, 1665 Hampshire Pk., Columbia, TN
  • OCTOBER: Association for Visual Arts, Chattanooga, 30 Frazier Ave., Chattanooga TN
  • NOVEMBER: Sycamore Shoals Visitor Center, 1651 W. Elk Ave., Elizabethton TN
  • DECEMBER/JANUARY: Customs House Museum, 200 S. Second St., Clarksville TN

Hoorah - I Won!

I am delighted and proud to announce that my watercolor "In The Spotlight" has received a top award at the opening of the 35th Biennial Juried Exhibition of the Tennessee Watercolor Society! My painting received the "Beauty of Watermedia" cash award, which is funded by donations made by the Society's members over the past 2 years… $1150 in cash - whoopee! My award was the third place; the two lovely paintings chosen for 1st and 2nd received $1200 purchase prizes, which means the businesses which donated those awards also get ownership of the winning paintings. I get the $$ and get to keep my painting, so that's fine with me! The show of 55 selected watermedia paintings premiers in Knoxville, the major Tennessee city closest to where I live.

Judy with Juror John Salminen

The juror for the show was internationally known and published artist John Salminen. In his statement about the exhibition he said: "My final choices were difficult. When selecting paintings for the exhibition I looked for work with a combination of compelling content and evidence of well-developed technical skill. I felt that the selected paintings were strong in their ability to draw my attention and to maintain it." Jurying a show is admittedly a subjective process, and Mr. Salminen remarked at the awards ceremony that when artists don't get into a juried show they usually conclude that it was an ignorant juror! He encouraged artists not to be discouraged, but to continue to enter other shows. A work once rejected is often chosen by another juror. He said then the artist thinks that juror wasn't so ignorant!

This exhibition includes works from exceptionally talented watermedia painters, working in both representational and abstract styles, from all around Tennessee. Many of those artists have won awards in national and international art shows, give professional art workshops, have hung in museum shows, and have been published. Some of the gorgeous paintings which I thought would get the top prizes didn't win any award. So I am truly honored, not only to be included as one of the 55 paintings in the show, but to have also been chosen for such a high award among such talent.

The art show is being held at the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, and runs through June 24th, 2016. After that, 30 paintings selected from the Main Show will travel to 6 other locations around the state through next January. The Emporium's regular hours are Mon-Fri 9-5. They will also be open for the First Friday Artwalk on June 3rd until 9pm, and Sundays, June 5 & 19, from 3:30-6:30 PM.

The Tennessee Watercolor Society's website will have this exhibition online and currently features the paintings from past Exhibitions.

My Painting is Accepted!

I am happy to share the news that my new painting "In The Spotlight" has been accepted into the Tennessee Watercolor Society's 35th Exhibition! The show juror is noted watercolor artist John Salminen, and he has chosen 55 paintings from artists all around Tennessee for this prestigeous show.

As a statewide organization, the Society moves the Exhibition to a different location every two years, and this year it takes place in Knoxville. It will be hung at The Emporium, 100 South Gay Street (the main downtown street). The show opens Saturday, May 21 and runs through June 24, 2016.

The selection process was done by digital entries. The juror will judge the actual paintings on May 15th for awards and for inclusion in a traveling show (a smaller selection of the exhibited paintings which tours the state for the rest of the year.)

I am proud to say that I am a Signature Member of TnWs. My artwork has been accepted for the past 4 biennial shows as well as for the traveling shows. Previously two per artist could be accepted, but only one of two entries is allowed since 2014, giving more members a chance at a slot. Here are my watercolor paintings previously chosen:

2008 - Out to Pasture
2010 - Nature Paints a Picture and Decadence
2012 - Jerry Van, Music Man and Jesus Saves
2014 - Elles Tobacco Planter


Reference photos from my extensive files
After the challenge of "In The Spotlight," my second recent watercolor painting took me back into my comfort zone:  an old truck, a farm building, animals, and barbed wire. My goal was to incorporate and connect some diverse elements, hoping I could create a path for the eye to follow through my painting.

My inspiration for this painting began with the old fire truck, retired from service from the nearby mountain community of Coker Creek. I loved the hand-lettering on the door, the streaks on the windows, the age on the body, and the worn tires. The truck is currently parked on pavement, next to an empty commercial building, with a "for sale" sign on the bumper. I struggled with getting good reference photos, because the truck is parked on the north side of the building, so it only gets a bit of sunlight in early morning. Summer lighting might put it less in shadow, but I didn't want to wait, so I took photos when the sun lit the truck best. To help me see the truck details in the shadows, I took some additional photos on another day when it was overcast, putting the entire truck in consistent light.

My first step was to create a new setting for the truck. From my own photos I have a huge digital reference file, including farm buildings in our area. I found a shot of a small shed which I thought would work well. I liked the broken and rough boards, rusty hinges, old barrel, and run-down look. "Flopping" the original photo made the building's lighting coordinate with the truck, casting a shadow on the truck which would read logically. I also decided to put the scene into a hilly pastoral setting, since Coker Creek is all hills and mountains.

I've been wanting to incorporate two cows into a paintings for a long time. My inspiration comes from an odd source - a cartoon on a dinner plate which I brought back from a trip to Switzerland many years ago. Rick and I were served on these plates at a mountaintop fondue restaurant which our hosts brought us to. I loved the "wackiness" of the plate so much that my friends arranged for me to take one home. This new painting seemed like the right place for a similar pair of cows, and I found a reference I could use in my photo files of black and white cows.

Lettering in a painting often catches the viewer's eye first. I was thinking about the words on the truck and what the viewer might think about the cows. Suddenly "Volunteers" struck me as a good title for the painting, as if the cows are the new volunteers for the fire department.

Rubbing off the masking fluid
As with most landscapes, I began with the sky and most distant trees. I blocked in the building next, with its lightest gray values. Then I concentrated on the truck. To create the light-colored lettering on the red truck, I painted the letters with "masking fluid," a rubbery liquid that blocks the paper from absorbing pigment when it dries. I had to work very carefully, with a fine brush coated with soap so I could clean the masking fluid off. Masking allowed me to paint the orange-red color of the truck body over the entire door. The dried masking fluid rubs off like an elastic, using a special eraser. Once the clean white letters were revealed, I carefully painted them yellow with black shading. I had fun painting in all the truck details - the roughness of the front grill, the dark parts of the chassis, the wound up red hose, and the muddy old tires.

After completing all the details of the farm building, which I really enjoyed, I filled in the grassy background, adding tiny fenceposts in the distance to reinforce the idea of a far-off pasture. I also added faint distant mountains in the top right, to look a bit more like Coker Creek. I roughed-in the barnyard, which I wanted to look as if it were covered with hay, trodden down by the cows. I had also put dobs of masking fluid in places at the bottom of the paper, preserving white shapes so I could paint in flowering daisies under the fence line. For the cows and the single fencepost, I painted around the shape, preserving the white of the paper. Eventually I painted the fencepost dark and rusty, so I could have just painted the fencepost over the lighter colors.

I've painted dogs, cats, horses, birds, and African wildlife, but these were my first cows… the black and white patterns were really fun to paint! The white fur areas show the shadowing, which makes the animals look realistic. The fine lines of the barbed wire were drawn in with watercolor pigment loaded into my favorite fine nib dip-pen.

With grass and daisies painted in under the fenceline and other foreground details completed, I declared "Volunteers" done! I've now entered this painting and my recent watercolor "In The Spotlight" into the biennial Tennessee Watercolor Society exhibition (which will be in Knoxville in May-June 2016), so I'll let you know by early April whether I've been accepted. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

In The Spotlight

"Third time's a charm" was a proverb I hoped would prove true as I decided to capture this scene in watercolor after two previous unsatisfactory attempts. I had taken photos about 4 years ago on an October evening in the mountains with my friends Debra and Mike. When Mike took a seat under the floodlight and started playing his guitar, I snapped a few shots with the intention of giving them to him. Later, when I reviewed the photos, I found the scene was really inspiring for a painting, with the dramatic lighting and high contrast.

Unfortunately, even with my point-and-shoot digital camera which takes great photos in low light, my photos were not perfectly sharp and clear. The camera had not been set on a tripod, and I had used only available light, not a flash. But I could still see the possibility of creating a painting from the scene.

It was actually because of the high contrast that I initially tried a watercolor method I had used successfully years ago, for paintings such as Nana's Rocker and Ponce's Lion, which I learned from a demo by Florida artist Jean Grastorf in the 1990s. In fact, Jean was kind enough to include my work as an example in her wonderful instructional book on the subject. The process involves masking light areas of the subject on the watercolor paper to prevent paint from being absorbed, pouring dilutions of the 3 primary colors onto the paper, then moving the puddles around to let the colors blend. By repeating this as each step dries, different values are built up gradually - not in realistic colors but in lovely mixtures of the red, blue, and yellow pigments.

Anyway, the first few pourings on my painting of Mike were going well, as shown in the photo to the left. But in subsequent pourings, my paints began to mix in a "muddy" way - looking dull and brownish. The more I continued, the more unhappy I became. I couldn't pinpoint whether my problems stemmed from the paints, the paper, or my technique. I don't often give up on a painting, but I felt this attempt was beyond repair and abandoned it. At one point I showed the unfinished work to Debra, who loved how it depicted Mike and said she would like to buy it, even unfinished, but that idea never sat well with me.

Fast forward to my second try. I was determined to make the pouring method work for this scene, and I started over completely, beginning again with a detailed drawing to identify the value areas. But that was as far as the second attempt went; I never even began to paint. In fact, that pencil drawing is still on the reverse side of this new painting!

Recently I decided to use conventional direct painting vs. pouring and started my painting of Mike one more time. Painting people is outside my comfort zone, but it's good to stretch oneself, huh? Just to be safe and to get back into the watercolor painting groove, I started on the denim jeans and ivory shirt. As I got braver and more confident, I continued with the guitar, head, and hat, and got Mike pretty close to completion. His features are not detailed and fine, as I painted in Jerry Van, Music Man, since the lighting was sparse and my reference photos were somewhat grainy. But I was satisfied with my progress on the painting and pushed forward.

Next I tackled the second figure, who was standing behind Mike, with his head and torso in the shadows of the barn opening. I painted him with the same brilliance and color saturation as Mike's figure, knowing I'd eventually have to do some adjusting to tone him down. Then I painted in the foreground gravel, and I really liked the little detail of the liquor bottle on the ground in the lower left. The background was intensely dark, so I made a saucer full of a pigment-rich mixture of my paints and worked quickly with a 2" flat brush, switching to a smaller brush as I outlined close the figures. Another tip I once heard in a painting workshop is that each corner of a painting should look different from the others, and this painting passed that test. I guess it just makes the painting more interesting...??

Speaking of brushes, I did this whole painting using just 3 brushes. Two of them are angled, which makes it possible to use the point for fine details and thin lines, or use the whole width of the same brush for more coverage. The smallest brush is a Royal & Langnickel Majestic 1/4" angular #4160, The middle sized brush is CJAS 3/4" angle shader from Cheap Joe's Art Stuff, one of my favorite art suppliers. The widest brush is Miller's Golden Fleece 2" nylon flat handled bold wash brush, also one of the house brands from Cheap Joe's (Joe Miller is the owner/artist).

OK, it was time to hold my breath and take a bold move. To "push" the top section of the standing figure into the background, I decided to use one of many techniques I had learned long ago in a workshop from noted watercolor artist Tom Lynch. As in the pouring method, the paint is thinned with lots of water. Then it is used in a fine-mist spray bottle to apply to the painting. Using a cool blue shade tends to make an image recede, so that's what I used. By spraying a fine mist, instead of painting the color on with a brush, there is less likelihood of disturbing the paint that's already on the paper (since all the pigments are water-soluble, unlike dried acrylic paints). I hated to mess up the standing figure, and I hoped not to ruin the painting, so I held my breath and sprayed. Better, but not enough. So I let it dry and sprayed again. Voila! He looks a little like a "Blue Man" but I think he looks further back in the shadows. To be honest, I didn't dare to spray again! I like that this makes Mike's figure the prominent focus of the painting.

As a last step, I went back around the entire painting, deepening the dark values and adding more contrast. Sometimes I have a hard time deciding when a painting is "done," and that was the case here. My final test was to show the painting to Mike and Debra. Hoorah, they both love the painting. That makes me happy!