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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Do You have any Unfinished Paintings?

'Nature's Peace'        8x10       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $145

We all have a few. I call them UFOs. Unfinished Objects. Paintings that were started but never finished. Maybe we got frustrated. Maybe we were just bored or something else was more inspiring. Whatever the reason the UFOs ended up in a pile somewhere. After awhile they need to be dealt with. They are taking up valuable space. Do we finish them or recycle the paper?

My UFO pile
Today I decided to get ahead of the pile by working on some of the demos from my recent workshop in Michigan. I took one out and evaluated it. It had good bones but was definitely needing some refinements.

One of my unfinished demos
I liked the colors and I was happy with the depth I had created. I needed to add some more detail and light to the shrubby trees and I needed to add texture and detail to the foreground. I used my go-to technique of spraying some workable fixative. I use Blair low odor fixative. This fixes the pastel in place allowing me to add more layers.

Working on the trees and spraying the foreground to prep for texture

Tip: Start your own UFO pile. Don't throw away unfinished paintings. Store them flat and out of sight. Put them in a box under a bed if you are short on space. Let them sit for awhile. When you are looking for a painting idea....revisit these UFOs and choose one to work on. You will undoubtably have new ideas and insight which you will apply to the painting. It is a great learning experience. 

I know there are paintings that you just need to throw away....but if you are at all on the fence do yourself a favor and put them in your UFO pile. You will learn from them when the time is right!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How to Try a New Medium without Fear

'Reimagination'          30x30    acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas         ©Karen Margulis

The results really didn't matter. And that was the key. I unlocked something that I am so excited about and can't wait to try again. All because THE RESULTS DIDN'T MATTER!

The backstory: I bought some square gallery wrapped canvas at a great sale a few years ago. I haven't touched them. (except for one unsuccessful attempt) I thought it would be fun to do some loose and fun acrylic paintings. But I don't have much experience with acrylics. I know that I will only get better at a medium if I PRACTICE. But I was afraid to even try. Paint is expensive. Canvas is expensive. What if I make a mess? What if the results are awful? I was filled with Fear!

Fast forward to last week. I was redecorating the bedrooms. New, floors, fresh paint, new bedding. I needed some new artwork for the walls and I needed it fast.  I wanted a neutral palette of grays and browns. I had several jars of sample paint colors left over from choosing paint for the walls. These would be perfect for my little experiment. The paint was cheap. I had the canvas and the results really didn't matter. It was just going to be a fun experiment. I had removed the biggest barrier to starting a new medium.....I was no longer afraid to try.

The Results and the rest of the story:  I had a blast slinging the paint on the canvas and letting it drip. Since the paint was cheap I was generous and laid it on thick with a cheap brush. I thought it would be fun to loosely suggest some Queen Anne's Lace flowers. It was so much fun and the result was interesting. My daughter loved it. I wasn't so sure. I set it aside thinking I wouldn't use it after all but happy that I had fun with it.

Yesterday though I had a thought. What if I used this painting as the UNDERPAINTING for a more representational version of QA Lace with some more color? Out came the painting and my stash of acrylics. The thick and drippy painting was perfect for my new vision! I only spent about 30 minutes refining some shapes and adding color before I was satisfied. Now I was excited!

What I learned from this experience:

  • Changing my attitude and approach when trying something unfamiliar made it less scary. As soon as I took on this 'What If' attitude I let go of any pressure to make something good and I just had fun.
  • Even if materials are expensive most of the time they can be reused and reimagined. I didn't waste a good gallery wrapped canvas when I didn't care for my first attempt. I reimagined it into something I did like.
  • Don't put off trying something new. You never know what you might discover.
I'm ready to dig out the other canvases and try some more!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Try This to Store and Share Pastel Paintings

'Pretty in Pink'        2.5 x 3.5      pastel      ©Karen Margulis
TODAY ONLY FRIDAY 11/17/17!  Clearbags.com Sale 15% off bags! Use coupon code CLEARFRIDAY

 It's a Daily Painter Dilemma.  How will I  decide what paintings to share and which to retire to the pile?  I paint just about everyday so that adds up to a lot of paintings. Sure some are just small studies and some have  been sold and some just aren't up to par.... but that still leaves quite a few paintings that need to be organized.

I certainly don't want to frame them all. The cost wouldn't be feasible. But I would like some paintings  available for easy viewing by studio visitors or at my workshops. How do I keep the pastel protected while still allowing for the painting to be handled?

I need  a good compromise! I think I found one.  A way to display unframed pastels while keeping them protected...and no frames are needed!

Crystal Clear Bags to the rescue!

A painting with it's foamcore and clearbag package
I've actually used this method of displaying pastels for years. And I can vouch that paintings left in the bags for years are no worse for wear. Here is what I do:
  • Order a selection of Crystal Clear bags to fit your painting sizes. I usually allow for a bag slightly larger than my painting size so it fit's snugly.  What are Crystal Clear bags? They are high quality clear bags with an adhesive flap seal. They are acid free and archival safe. They come in an huge array of sizes. I order mine from clearbags.com
  • Cut a piece of foam core the size of the painting. Slip this piece of foamcore into the bag.
  • Slip the painting into the bag. The foam core backing will provide support. Since it fits snugly in the bag there is no need to tape the painting to the board. Also the snug fir means the painitng won't move around and get smudged.
  • I take an extra step and include a preprinted slip of paper with my contact information and care instructions. I suggest that the bag be cut off and pulled away from the painting. You can take the painting out without cutting the bag if you are careful.
Yes you do get some residual pastel dust on the inside of the bag but it isn't enough to make a difference. The key is to make sure the painting and foamcore fit snugly inside the bag. You do not want the painting to be able to slide around.

To give you an idea I order bag B75 for my 5x7 paintings. They measure 5 7/16 x 7 1/4
Here is the list of the bags I recently ordered:

B75 for 5x7
B86 for 6x8
B811 for 8x10
B1012 for 9x12
B11 for 11x14

(I ordered 2.5 x.3.5 inch bags for my minis but I didn't remember to allow room for the foamcore so they are too small!)

My new stash pf clear bags!

A basket full of older 5x7 pastel paintings
**** I know this blog post may come too late for many of you but they bags are still a good deal even without the discount!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Fun Tip for Suggesting Detail in a Painting

'Autumn Glory'         pastel     2.5 x 3.5    ©Karen Margulis
available $25 email for details
 It is one of hardest thing to do for some of us. Getting away from the tendency to put in every detail in a paining. I hear it often.....'How can I learn to SUGGEST detail"  "I don't want to paint every leaf on the tree!" The first step it awareness. If you know you have a tendency towards putting in too much detail and information in a painting that's a start!  There are many things you can do to move away from detail and into the area of suggestion. I'll share a fun idea in today's post.

Paint something tiny!

Last week I focused my blog posts on painting mini pastels....paintings that are 2.5x3.5 inches. I have heard from some of you that you love minis and some of you have been trying them. I hope to convince more of you on the value of making minis a part of your painting practice.

All set up and ready to paint (and make a video)
While it is true that you can paint detail in a small format it can help you move to more suggestion if you let it.

  • Don't use pastel pencils or even too many hard thin pastels. They are easy for detail which you want to avoid!
  • Use your big pastels for larger marks. I use both full size pastels as well as smaller leftover bits. (see my Box of Bits in the photo)
  • Practice making marks on small paper. The more you do the easier it will be to manipulate a pastel in a small space.
  • Start the painting with big simple shapes. Then decide where you will add a touch of detail.
  • Add a few spots of detail....not everywhere!!! The eye will fill in the rest.

Display your minis in frames or use tiny easels
Have fun painting minis!  If you are a patron of my Patreon page I just posted a new video all about painting minis. I paint the mini shown below in the video. See the video here www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

'For the Love of Texas'        2.5 x 3.5     pastel    
available $25 email for details

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sometimes You Just Have to Go for the Whimsical

'Joyful'            16x20           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
I don't know what has come over me. I am into hot pink lately. I am redecorating the bedrooms and for some reason I was drawn to a hot pink shag area rug on our recent Ikea run. I bought it but I am on the fence. Will it be too much?  Today I decided to just go with it. Let there be hot pink! And I took out my pink pastels. 

I don't usually paint for my own home although I do have my paintings hanging in my studio. But I needed some art for our newly painted walls and I had the perfect frame for the guest room. My daily painting would be something for the guest room. I knew I wanted hot pink and something fun and whimsical. Certainly not my usual style and colors but sometimes it's OK to just let go and have some fun!

my photo inspiration
I knew I had just the photo to inspire my painting. This fun bouquet came from my good friend's summer garden. I haven't painted it yet but it had just the right type of fun flowers for my idea.

Drawing with charcoal
I decided to use a piece of white Canson Mi-Teintes paper because I knew I didn't need to use many layers of pastel. The white would help my colors look bright. I took out a piece of vine charcoal to do my drawing. I knew it would force me to be loose and bold. It did the trick. I finished the painting with bold 'shouting' strokes and minimal layers. It was a lot of fun and it will be a fun addition to the guest room!

Framed and ready for the guest room!

My Thankful Event is in full swing with new work added today. www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart
Use coupon code THANKFUL50 at checkout.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Do You Listen To Your Paintings?

'Beautiful Dreamers'           20x29            pastel        ©Karen Margulis
The painting started to speak. I ignored it at first. After all I had a plan. I didn't intend to change it. But the painting persisted. It spoke louder. And louder. I put down my pastel and took a step back. Maybe I should listen. I could always go back to my original plan if it didn't work out. And in the end I was very happy that I had listened. 

Do you listen when your painting talks? What does that even mean? It isn't just some Artsy talk. It is real.  Your painting is talking when you find the voice in your head asking questions such as "What if I.......(fill in the blank) or "Should I just......(fill in the blank)  When you find yourself asking these types of questions it is your painting pushing you in a different direction. Call it a gut feeling or intuition. The questions are the result of your experience guiding you suggested by what is happening on your painting. 

When you listen to your painting (your gut) you either end up with something interesting or a failed experiment. But since you never know where it will lead you it certainly doesn't hurt to try. Remember it is only paper. 

A big piece of yellow Canson Touch sanded paper 
 Today I listened. I was painting a large 20x29 painting . It is for my newly refreshed bedroom. I want to use some of my Queen Annes Lace paintings from Ireland. I already had two smaller paintings framed and wanted a large focal painting.  I selected a small study for inspiration. My intention was to simply enlarge the small study....same composition and colors.

The painting had other ideas. I decided to listen and the result was something that is just right!

My inspiration was a 6x8 study
Would you like to see the step by step photo demo of this painting? It is available on my Patreon page. Join for just $4 a month  for weekly demos, exercises and more! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

After blocking in with darks and yellows

The finished painting

Sunday, November 12, 2017

No Time to Paint? Take a Discovery Walk

Photo Collage from a Quick Morning Discovery Walk
It's been a busy week. But a very very rewarding week. I had the honor of teaching two workshops with Artensity Art Workshops in Ann Arbor Michigan. Debra Zamperla was my fantastic coordinator and hostess. It couldn't have been better. Both the venue and the groups of artists were wonderful. I had two different groups for a three and two day workshop. The artists were all  talented and hard working and most of all were willing to let go and have fun!

Demo paintings from my underpainting workshop
 I was so busy though that I didn't see any of Ann Arbor expect along the route from the hotel to the workshop venue. I was feeling a bit sad to have visited a place and not really experienced it so on the morning of my departure I bundled up and went for a quick walk around  the hotel grounds.
I wasn't planning on taking any photos but I was glad to have my phone with me when I saw the morning light and how it made even the mundane stuff in a parking lot look beautiful.

Beauty is Everywhere

I then continued my work with a purpose. It had become a Discovery Walk. I changed my focus and began to look for simple beauty. Light on a seed pod. A bit of snow around an evergreen. The light on a pile of yellow leaves. I used my phone to snap some photos. Simple things that I had overlooked took on a new meaning. I had discovered beauty in a parking lot and now I have material for future paintings and left feeling like I got to know a small corner of the town.

A few demos from a busy week

Hard working artists
Try This: This little Discovery Walk only took a few minutes but I found that my senses were sharpened  and was filled with inspiration. The next time you are too busy to be creative or too busy to paint.....take a camera or your phone and go for a discovery walk in your neighborhood. What beauty have you overlooked?

Italy Anyone?  Artenisty also runs workshop in Italy. I am considering a possible workshop in Italy and wondered if there is interest in taking a workshop withm me in Florence September 2018. No plans yet but if it sounds intriguing let me know! karenmargulis@gmail.com

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inspiration of the Day

'Beauty is Everywhere'         6x6       pastel         ©Karen Margulis

It is a common complaint. Finding something to paint is a stumbling block for many. Before I give my two cents on this topic I will share a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
 This quote strikes a chord with me as I am always reminding myself and my students that beauty is everywhere. We should be able to find something that touches us and inspires us wherever we look. We have to approach our search for inspiration with the mindset that there is beauty in everything. We only need to be open to it....to really SEE it. It isn't enough to just look around us. We need to feel the beauty and be sensitive to it.

I don't use beautiful and perfect reference photos for my paintings. I use small and dark photos. (bad photos) This allows me to pull out the beauty that I see inside of my mind and put it into the painting. I have discovered that  bad photos lead to my best paintings. My favorite places to paint are not the most spectacular. They possess a quiet and simple beauty that speaks to me because I am open to them.

Dry wash underpainting on white sanded paper
The next time you are searching for painting inspiration remember Emerson's words. Beauty is there. We just have to have it in our hearts so that we can see it and then paint it!

I have traveled and painted finding inspiration wherever I went. I want to share my vision with you. It is the time of sharing and being thankful so I am once again offering my painting at 50% off during my Thankful Event. Visit my etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart
to see the paintings and use the coupon code THANKFUL50 when you check out to get the discount. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Six Easy Steps to a Mini Pastel Painting

'Morning on the Marsh'             2.5 x 3.5           pastel              ©Karen Margulis
Have I convinced you yet? Have you tried painting a mini? Mini Week continues with a look at a simple way to paint small. There are so many ways to paint with pastels. There are hard pastels, soft pastels, Pan pastels, pastel pencils.....anything goes. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes I just want a simple method. This is a quick look at my favorite method ....6 Steps to a Mini. 

1. Quick light drawing of the big shapes with pencil.

2. Block in the dark shapes.

3. Block in the light shapes.

4. Block in the most intense color

5. Fill in the rest of the paper in a middle value color.

6. Continue developing the painting and clarifying the focal area.

This is a quick look at this technique. It is a helpful way to simplify a busy reference photo and it works for any subject. I painted a snowman for my class showing them how this method still works!  If you would like to see it in more detail you might like to explore my pdf demo available on Etsy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

5 More Reasons to Paint Small

'Fall Fantasy 6'         2.5 x 3.5
How small can we go? Have you tried painting a mini pastel? I used to think 5x7 was small until I gave minis a try.  I choose 2.5 x 3.5 as my mini size because ready made frames and mats are available. I will share storage and presentation ideas later this week. Mini Week continues with a look at 5 more reasons to paint small. If you missed the first 5 reasons click here to read them.

6. Economical. Minis are great because they don't cost much in materials. I don't use much pastel at all and I cut my scrap papers into 2.5 x 3.5 pieces. I buy my pastel paper in full size sheets and cut them down to size. I am always left with thin strips. I save these strips until I need paper for minis then I cut them down to size.

'Fall Fantasy 7'           2.5 x 3.5 

7. Eco-Friendly. Save the environment and recycle paper for minis. Not only do I use my paper scraps, I also recycle failed paintings and cut them up for minis. Instead of throwing away a failed painting I do an alcohol wash over the offending painting, let it dry and cut it up. I get lots of nice dark toned paper to paint on!

'Fall Fantasy 8'          2.5 x 3.5

8. Fine Motor Practice. Painting small is one of the best ways to develop and fine tune control over your pastel sticks. Sometimes a chunk of pastel can seem awkward and unwieldy. It take practice to figure out just the right touch to make the marks you want. 

'Fall Fantasy 9'          2.5 x 3.5 

9. Experiment. Painting small leads to getting more creative and experimental. I find it less daunting to experiment on a scrap of paper. If it doesn't turn out I didn't waste much. I have tried many interesting techniques on a mini before I did a larger version.

'Fall Fantasy 10'           2.5 x 3.5 

10. FUN!  The best reason of all to paint minis is because it is fun and relaxing. I like to sit when I paint the minis. I find that the more I do, the more I want to do. The more I do the more expressive they become.  Working small allows me to gain experience with the important parts of good painting....composition, value, color, drawing. I learn while I am having fun....can't beat that!

Monday, November 06, 2017

It's Mini Week. 5 Reasons to Paint Small

'Fall Fantasy 1'            2.5 x 3.5            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
Why would you want to paint so small?  This is one of the questions I get when someone sees me painting these mini pastels. I can think many reasons to limit the size of my paintings every once in awhile. I've boiled them down to 10.  Enjoy my latest mini pastels as I share 5 of the top ten reasons to paint small (2.5 x 3.5 inch artist trading card size)

1: Simplify. Limiting the size of the paper limits how much I can put in. It forces me to simplify and pick out the big simple shapes. It is easier to suggest details in a smaller space. This is great practice for seeing simply that can be transferred to larger paper.

'Fall Fantasy 2'   2.5 x 3.5    

2. Color Studies: Trying out color schemes on small paper saves time and frustration. It is quick and easy to try several color scheme possibility in a mini painting. I get a good idea of the color choices before investing time and supplies on a larger painting.

'Fall Fantasy 3'         2.5 x 3.5

 3. Affordable: I love having small affordable originals for my collectors. These minis are affordable for anyone to add fine art to their home. It's a win-win. I learn from painting them and collectors enjoy collecting them!

'Fall Fantasy 4'       2.5 x 3.5 
4. Gifts:  Not only are mini pastels affordable for collectors they are great gifts for anyone. I love to gift my minis throughout the year but especially for the holidays. They are great to give to children as an introduction to collecting original art. I have also used them as table place cards for the holiday table. Put them in small frames for a great party favor!

'Fall Fantasy 5'          2.5 x 3.5 

5. Portable: This is probably my favorite reason for painting small.... I can take them with me anywhere!  I have a small pastel kit that I keep in a zippered book cover. It holds a small box of pastels, 2.5 x 3.5 inch papers, wipes and a small piece of foam core.....I can throw this in my car or backpack and I am ready to paint anywhere!