Archive for July 2013

What is my art style?

Every artist is asked the same question and, I suppose, for some, answers are ready.

I’ve been called an impressionist, an expressionist, a fauvist and probably a few other things behind my back.

Gallery owners tell me I need a “body of work” with continuity of style. I understand why this is necessary for them, but it doesn’t seem like much fun for me. To which “style” would I limit myself?

Luckily, I’m able to rate the fun factor high on my list and not worry much about gallery representation. People who visit my studio/gallery think several other artists are sharing the wall space with me. When I tell them it’s all my work, “You are certainly diverse” follows.

When I tag my website artwork for search engines, I use the work “impressionism” as a keyword for almost every painting because Impressionism is like Sara Lee, “nobody doesn’t like”. And some buyers aren’t quite sure how to describe work that they like or know the names of many other styles.

I learned early in my art career that painting to gallery requirements DSC0111510mpl ptg images 0051coral bells copyyupo azaleas copyflowervase would mean a lot of self discipline. That would be counter productive for me. The joy of creating is in constant evolution and change, in techniques, media, surfaces, palettes and subject matter.

I study art every day and the more I study the more inspired and inquisitive I become. To not be able to strike out in new directions, even though it means a loss of gallery representation and recognition, is a price I’ll never be willing to pay.

I’ve featured a few floral paintings here to demonstrate my wild abandon in approaching the same subject matter at different times. All were painted with the actual flowers in front of me. Even though the medium is different in some and both paper and canvas were surfaces, the diversity is something that happens in the moment. It’s inexplicable to me and makes every painting a new adventure.

What is my art style? Diverse.

The St. Pete Alley “series”: to be continued

My original alley photo
My original alley photo
Developing the painting and palette
Developing the painting and palette
Primi's Alley
Primi’s Alley
This is the first painting in what eventually will be a series of St. Pete alley paintings. I’ve always loved alleys. They tell so much about people in different places and how they live. There is a feeling of intimacy that intrigues me.

From my photograph, changed to black and white in Photoshop so as not to distract me from developing the colors I visualized, I began developing the piece. Finally, I added a broken bicycle and a lone walker to connect the lonely street to humanity.

Memories of 9/11

A small group of artists traveled to Prague in 2001 to attended a workshop there. We painted from the windows, from rooftops, from park benches, wherever we could perch to capture the beauty of this magnificent city. I sat painting this view of rooftops and domes from a bench in the palace parks between 9 AM and 12 noon (US time). We went back down the hill to our hotel and heard the horrible news. The next day we walked to the American Embassy and were comforted by the heartfelt tributes and condolences from the Czech people.


We wanted to go home. We were in shock. All planes to the US were grounded and we waited another week. The hotel set up special CNN network for us so we could follow the news in our own language. A huge memorial service was held for Americans in Prague who wanted to come together to grieve. The memory of that horrific event is as strong today as it was then, and forever will be.

prague 9-11-01






painting this scene in the palace gardens at the time the twin towers were hit.
painting this scene in the palace gardens at the time the twin towers were hit.
the next day at the American Embassy, my aunt Helen and I read the tributes.


Start Over! No Wait!

Early stage of White Vase, Purple Flowers















This painting was juried into the International Society of Acrylic Painters, to be held in California this year, but it had a pretty rocky journey getting from my brain onto the canvas.

I don’t plan my paintings. I don’t even plan my life. I don’t enjoy planning so I’m not good at it. For the most part, my life has been random – happy, but totally random. I’m not proud of this, but I’ve learned to go with it.

My painting is usually the same. Even if I start with a strong idea, somewhere during the creative process I always seem to change direction and instincts take over.

“White Vase, Purple Flowers” started strong with bright red flowers in a blue vase. At one point I had the vase and flowers painted very realistically and the background abstractly- two separate paintings trying to be on the same canvas. In frustration, I painted over the whole thing with a wash of buff paint intending to completely cover the canvas for a “start over”. But during the cover-up, I began to feel something nice happen in the composition. I worked on this painting off and on for two months, changing, changing, changing. Finally it said ENOUGH.

the French Cow incident

On a plein air painting adventure in 1999 at an old mill near Claude Monet’s home in Giverny, we artists set up easels in a pasture across the river from a beautiful old mill. Within minutes a herd of curious young cows appeared and were very attracted to my work and the brightly colored watercolors in my palette. Plein air painting is always an adventure.

Heren come the critics!
Here come the critics!
It looks okay, but I don't care for the taste. It looks okay, but it tastes even better.
She threw her jacket over her palette. That was the best part. Nothin to do but lick the painting.
She threw her jacket over her palette. That was the best part. Just lick the painting.


She's sharing her water with us. At least it's not another cash bar.
Water? You’d think they’d have a cash bar.


Bordering on Paradise


blog birds



As a class assignment early on in my art experience, I was asked to create a square format watercolor that had a minimum of nine borders and was loosely symetrical. A 40 x 40 sheet of wc paper is intimidating to a beginner, but the border theme allowed me to create a center and then build out from it. First step was to draw my composition on regular paper and then go over the lines with black permanent marker so it would show through for the transfer onto wc paper. I taped the drawing onto a sliding glass door and taped the wc paper over it because the piece was far too large to use a lightbox. The instructor, Judith Dazzio, had us brush on some “spirit colors” in random shapes and spots all over the finished drawing, all with soft edges. A boiler bottle filled with latex house paint was used to go over the pencil lines. When dry, the composition was ready to paint. “Bordering on Paradise” was the most technical and time-consuming painting I ever attempted and because I am an alla prima painter, I haven’t been willing undertake a similar project again. I learned two important things about myself with this painting. First, my creativity is thwarted by structured  “technique” and, secondly, I never allow a painting to leave my studio before taking a high-resolution photo for future prints. This painting sold out of a gallery to a Tampa couple and all I have left of it is this small photograph.

Are you afraid of taking commissions?

Sandra's Mother If not, please tell me your secret. After every one is completed, I swear NEVER AGAIN. The worrying, fear of not pleasing the client, boredom with doing something that is not from my own imagination, all work away on my nerves for the weeks the commission is in progress.

But then along comes another request from a friend and I can’t say no. Here we go again. I explain that I am not a portrait artist and that the work will have to be in my style (whatever that is) and not photo-realistic. I ask for a deposit up front, tell them that it will take quite a while….nothing I say has discouraged anybody.

So here is my latest commission, a “portrait” of a single working mother in front of the big used car she was finally able to afford to carry her four very young children. She’s wearing a homemade dress that the client remembers. The painting combines several old photos and is done in the sepia tones of that time.

As has always happened, the client loves the painting and all my worries were in vain. But, NEVER AGAIN.

Art in San Miguel…Fantastico!

I’m off to the charming town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for five weeks of cool, dry mountain climate and a saturation of some of the best art in the world.

My friend and artist Victoria Pierce, originally from Tampa, moved to San Miguel nine years ago. She has renovated an old hacienda with three courtyards and added a large studio on the property. Her home is amazing in the way that an artist’s home often is, but Vicki’s personal touch is making it into a paradise among the dizzying array of beautiful homes and fabulous art. I can hardly wait to see the progress, join her for some painting in her studio and visit

With Vicki in her Aurora Fabrica Gallery in San Miguel. The large abstract collage behind is   one is a recent series.
With Vicki in her Aurora Fabrica Gallery in San Miguel. The large abstract collage behind is one in a recent series.

her gallery at Aurora Fabrica, an old warehouse that now houses dozens of top artists. See more of Victoria’s stunning work at her personal web site.

Paintng on Yupo: So many ways to go

Remember that white looped tag on your luggage handle with the barcode? It won’t tear. You have to pull the ends apart or use scissors. That’s the magical material called Yupo, really a sheet of plastic, not paper. Artists have discovered that painting on a sheet of Yupo (many sizes possible) is a fun, forgiving way to create. Paint stays up on the surface and doesn’t lose intensity and, if you use watercolor, as I have in “Out of the Sea”, you can lift shapes back off of the surfaces to correct shapes or colors or create new shapes.
out of othe sea

For this painting, I made big loose marks all over the Yupo on a flat surface, probably the kitchen counter, with a limited color palette of red, blue and raw sienna. Picking up one corner at a time I pulled each diagonally across the paper and without allowing the material to crease (very important), I mashed the surfaces together, spreading the paint between. When I pulled the corner back again, it left mysterious, beautiful shapes where the paint had been mashed and then sucked up when separated. After repeating the process at each corner and then side to side, a sea bed began to appear in my imagination with many shells of different sizes and shapes.

Using my watercolor brushes, I pulled some of the paint off to create human figures. At left are a man and woman, toward the middle is a woman emerging from a large shell, her head still not formed, and at right in a large figure of a woman with her head back, her hands still in the shapes of morphing fins. Below and to the left of her is a tiny woman climbing out of a shell.

The theme became apparent to me immediately when I saw the shell shapes. Science tells us that all life originally came from the sea. This is an interpretation of that evolution. Although the painting is very large, it always pulls viewers in close to discover it’s mysteries.