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The Portrait From Hell


Life Lessons


All of life is a learning experience, and being an artist brings its own series of lessons.


A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away I was contacted about painting a pet portrait as a gift for a woman’s husband. We agreed that she would bring the German Shepherd to me to photograph. It was a snowy day, but for some reason I was outside as she drove up. From several hundred feet away I could hear the dog barking inside the approaching car. As she got out, the young dog jumped over her in his haste to exit the car. Since she was holding his leash, this caused her to spin around and bump the car door shut, thereby locking the keys inside.


It quickly became apparent she had no control over the dog, so I put him in a crate while we tried to unlock her car with a coat-hanger. The weather wasn't helping, so we all went inside, her to call a locksmith, and me to photograph the dog. He settled down quickly and I was able to get several nice photos.


We then discussed the size and medium of the portrait. She pleaded a tight budget, so I gave her a very good price. Later, she was very pleased with the finished portrait and planned to have it framed in time to present to her husband. Several months afterwards I happened to be speaking with an artist friend who also ran a frame shop. He commented on the fact that he’d recently framed the portrait and how nicely it had turned out. He told me what the lady had spent on the framing, and to my surprise and chagrin, it was much more than I’d charged her for painting the portrait in the first place!


Oh, about the keys locked in the car? A neighbor came in through the garage to ask if he could borrow some tools, and just casually mentioned that he’d spotted the coat-hanger on the car roof, and used it to unlock the door.


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Discipline,,,,,,,,,,how easy it is to slide

'Henry the Mountain Lion'  from the children's book by the same name


The painting above is from the cover of the first 'Henry' book I illustrated. Angela Adams, the author, collected stories of various sighting of a pair of mountain lions  in Yadkin County, NC.  From the time the book was conceived until it was published three years later, the mountain lions seemed to have disappeared. With the release of the book, locals started reporting sightings of the big cats and offering photographic proof. The second book will contain that proof. 



Discipline,,,,,,,,,,how easy it is to slide


I wish I were the type of person whose life was organized and structured, but I’m not. There are way too many interests pulling at me, and I need to stop volunteering to serve on boards and teach art classes if I ever want any free time. But, what would be the fun in that?


During the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge, I was able to push a few responsibilities aside and postpone others. Now, they’re all starting to demand my time. I serve as membership chair for the Watercolor Society of North Carolina and the first quarter of the year is dues time for our 400 members. Emails fly back and forth, membership applications arrive, checks get deposited, and WSNC materials are mailed out. It’s time to start working on my entries for the annual exhibit, and as I've mentioned before, it’s also coming up crunch time for the children’s book illustrations. So I guess I’ll be burning the midnight oil again tonight.



Sale of Used Art & Craft Supplies

For those of you who live near Winston Salem, NC.



~ SUPER ART & ART SUPPLY SALE ON 6th Street, Winston Salem, NC ~


Unleashed Arts Center is located at:

204 West 6th Street, Downtown Winston-Salem Arts District

across from 6th & Vine Restaurant


AFAS Artists will be selling art work and art supplies.

Gently used paints, canvasses, frames, beads,

and jewelry, easels and desks and more


February Hours:

Wednesday – Friday: 12-5pm

Saturday: 11am-4pm


Continuation of the Journey

'Charleston Weaver'   7 x 5" watercolor & ink


Continuation of a Journey

 My efforts in Leslie Saeta’s January 30 in 30 challenge are over, and boy, has it been a ride! I found it an interesting statement on intent and discipline to note that of the 1,827 artists who signed up for the challenge, 1,483 actually took part, and of those, only about 150 actually created a painting every day. For most of artists, painting is not a full-time occupation. We fit it in around 9-5 jobs, children, housework, and all the other distractions that make up life. I've set other obligations aside, a time or two, to finish a painting a day, and I'm certain I'm not alone in that.


This challenge came at an opportune time for me, after the holiday rush and before the start of the art show and gardening seasons. My plan is to try to create and post everyday, but I'm not going to beat myself up if it doesn't happen. The small piece above is from a trip to Charleston, SC where traditionally sweet grass is woven into lovely and functional baskets. It was much easier to work in a smaller format and use watercolor and ink instead of my usual acrylics. 


Won’t you join me on my journey? Many of these will appear on my Daily Paint Works site:




Conclusions-Continuations My 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge




Conclusions - Continuations

Challenges Everywhere

Leslie Saeta's 30 30 Challenge is over, and the collage above shows most of my efforts. I did complete a painting every day, and these won’t be the last daily painting you’ll see from me, (I’m not sure if you’ll take that as a threat or a promise). In addition to building a nice inventory of small acrylic landscapes, I've proven to myself that I CAN carve out enough time to paint EVERY day! My mediums might change, and some may be drawings instead of colorful paintings, but I plan to continue to see where this journey takes me.


Since I have illustrations for a children’s book are due by the end of February, they will probably be my subject for many of these postings. As I followed several of the other artists who participated in Leslie’s challenge, one of the reoccurring comments was not knowing what to paint next. Somehow I don’t find that a problem. I see so many visually fascinating subjects around me: light shining through a red-backed begonia leaf, reflections in a window, the shape of my husband’s antique tools, my three dogs or shadows thrown on a wall. All of those are in real-time, not photos I’ve taken, and the list seems endless.


Won’t you join me on my journey? Many of these will appear on my Daily Paint Works site:


"Beaufort Shrimpers" #30 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge


 “Beaufort Shrimpers”    acrylic on canvas    $160


Catching Dinner


People that make their living on the water are a rugged breed, indeed. Getting up at 4 am, leaving the harbor in the pitch dark, and being at the mercy of the weather isn't for the faint hearted. Working on a boat is very different than working in an office, a store, or even working construction. When a storm comes up and twenty foot waves pour over the bow, you can’t just walk away or wait it out. A few minutes of inattentiveness can mean your life.


Less dramatic forces also affect a waterman’s life; market prices for the catch, fuel prices, catch limits, even pollution from something as seemingly innocent as lawn fertilizer.  The next time you sit down to a fried fish dinner or a basket of steamed shrimp, give thanks to the guys who make that possible. 


'Winter Thunderstorm' #29 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge


'Winter Thunderstorm'   acrylic on canvas    $160



Winter Thunderstorm

We don’t expect thunderstorms in early March. Thunderstorms are a feature of humid summer days, but Nature and the weather can surprise us. I remember, while living in Maryland, going out to dinner with friends on a March day warm enough to wear sandals. During the meal we heard thunder, but didn’t give it much thought. Leaving the restaurant, we were greeted with blowing snow. It became so bad that it clogged the car wipers and we had to lean out an open window to see the yellow line on the road. Our friends doubted they could get down our farm lane, so we walked the quarter mile to the house. Not only did my feet become solid blocks of ice, but the wind actually drove the snow into our ears.


Looking back on such experiences, we can laugh now, but it sure wasn’t any fun at the time.


'Autumn Woods' #28 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge




Fall is a very special time of the year, Nature’s last brilliant hurrah before winter’s more somber garb. Tulip poplar and hickory leaves turn golden yellow, dogwoods become a deep garnet red, and the few maples we have here in North Carolina flame crimson.  Brisk mornings proceed warm afternoons, fallen leaves crunch underfoot, and the scent of wood smoke all signal the end of the year. An afternoon spent raking leaves us finished up with hot chocolate or a bowl of soup.


The fall woods are more open, allowing birds to be seen that are usually hidden by summer leaves.  The sun penetrates to the forest floor, highlighting the red berries of the viburnum and the jack-in-the-pulpit. On chilly mornings the creeks might be rimmed with ice and frost can edge the blackberry leaves, making them look like they are outlined with white fur. A hike in the fall woods is a great way to store memories of color and scents before winter weather locks us indoors.


'Hidden Cove' #27 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

 'Hidden Cove'   8x10" acrylic on canvas    $160

#27   So Many Greens

‘Hidden Cove’


The eastern half of the United States is green. Trees, grass, shrubs, weeds, and flowers all come in an endless variety of greens. The yellowish spring greens of new growth, dark blue/greens of holly leaves, brown tinged greens of oak leaves, the silvery greens of stackys and Artemisia, and the red/greens of Japanese maples.


Golden Acrylics, one of the oldest manufacturers of acrylic paints, lists 18 versions of the color green. Now, there is a myth in the artistic world that goes something like this: If you have just the right brand of brush, just the right color of paint, or just the correct canvas or paper to paint on, you will create magnificent paintings. Of course the art supply companies encourage this myth because it’s good for their bottom line, but the truth is that only study and hours of practice will produce credible artwork. So rather than reaching for a tube of green, artists would do better learning to mix their own greens.  Various yellows and blues make some basic greens. Alter any of those greens by adding amounts of red or brown, or even additional yellows or blues will create an endless variety of interesting greens.


Mix colors, play, throw paint, experiment and have fun while learning.

'Open Gate' #26 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge



#26  Recordings

‘Open Gate’


Uh-oh, I’ve just come to an earth shattering conclusion! Most of these 30 in 30 paintings have been a stroll down memory lane. Please tell me that doesn’t mean I’m OLD!  I try to encourage my painting students to build a reference library of photos they’ve taken themselves. To record events and places that hold meaning for them, or scenes that capture their imagination. So it is with my own photos, all 45,000+ of them, (thank goodness for external hard drives).


Seldom does a landscape present a perfect composition without a little editing. Removing telephone poles, parked cars, trash cans or an obscuring tree, or perhaps adding a path, structure or a shadow might make it a better painting. So, in addition to photographing scenes I find interesting, I record individual trees, cows in a field, old barns, and fences, just to have material to drop into a paining as needed. I’m a Master Gardener and throughout the seasons record both my gardens in general and close-ups of individual flowers. Now that I’ve started illustrating children’s books, I photograph children in action, so I might use a pose to develop a character. As my photos do for me, I hope my paintings bring to mind fond memories for you.


'Overlook' #25 in my 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge


 ‘Overlook’    acrylic on canvas    $160


In the summer after we graduated high school, a girlfriend and I rode my old motorcycle from Maryland down the Blue Ridge Parkway. We camped out along the way, sometimes even using a campground. We quickly found that no one bothered you if you slept in a graveyard and back then, most churches were unlocked, offering a dry pew on a rainy night.


The motorcycle needed a tune-up so badly that on the really steep hills, my friend had to get off and walk. Looking back now, we were rather reckless and lucky, but we had the time of our lives. A year later I did the same kind of motorcycle camping, (different motorcycle), in Canada after working at a camp in Maine for the summer. When it was time to head home, I made the ride in one day, arriving around 2 am. I was so stiff and sore, that it took a good twenty minutes before I could get off the bike and make it into the house. Now days if I thought my granddaughter were planning such a trip, I’d have her locked up.


Times have changed, but the Blue Ridge Parkway is still an unspoiled roadway through some of the most beautiful county we have.