Category Archives: Ramblings

Kitty in da house

I have a new orange kitty named Matisse. As a result I’m extremely sleep deprived. He loves to attack my feet at night and go bonkers right when I’m trying to sleep. He also wakes me up at 5:30 AM sharp, meowing, “it’s time to feed me!” Any advice for the weary?

I haven’t made any new paintings this week because this cat is driving me nuts. I did get some extremely adorable pictures of him, photobombing my floral still lives.

Kitty flower

Kitty flower

Here’s the last painting I did, a mixed media study of bougainvillea that I saw back when I was visiting the Bay Area. I wish I could grow bougainvillea in Portland.



Inspiration from Old Snapshots

Back when I had a flip phone, I used a fuji finepix digital point and shoot to capture snapshots. It was definitely a much clunkier process than the brilliant iphone. Buried on my desktop were pictures from maybe eight years ago. It’s interesting to see what random things I took pictures of, and what I found inspiring and still do: flowers, textures, patterns, shadows.

A pigeon in Italy. One of my few travels abroad. I dearly wish I could do more traveling.

Picture 190

The patina on this diner/storefront somewhere in DC. I don’t even remember where this is or if I have even been inside.


Brick pattern in Italy:

Picture 189

Wall texture and water stains in Italy:

Picture 188

Martin Puryear’s spackle? and nail holes texture on plywood:

Picture 331

from one of the best arts exhibits I’ve ever seen. His sculptures at the National Gallery of Art. I wish Portland had a museum of the same caliber.

Picture 253

I’m sure I thought I was being so surreptitious in taking this picture from some exhibit, possibly the National Gallery of Art. Does anyone know who did this watercolor?

Picture 265

Ink stains. Maybe a Rauschenberg? I really have no idea.

Picture 301

Bright colors in what to me looks like part of Matisse?

Picture 313

I used to use my point and shoot to take visual notes even from books and magazines. This was before Pinterest. Look at this divine Giacometti drawing.


Pavement crack patterns near Van Ness in DC:
Picture 367


The most bizarre marbled pattern on this fabric chair. And what is that plant in the sea of green it’s sitting in?


I love watercolor washes. Probably since I used to make my ballpoint pen ink bleed.





Some of my favorite quotes on Art

“…because I like to work from nature – although I do use a photograph – because I think that any detail from nature has a logic I would like to see in abstraction as well. On the other hand, painting from nature or painting still-lifes is a sort of diversion; creates balance. If I were to express it somewhat informally, I would say that the landscapes are a type of yearning, a yearning for a whole and simple life.”—Gerhard Richter Interview with Dorothea Dietrich 1985

“this slightly defocused and quite rich and densely interconnected thing… “—Brian Eno

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft”
— Ann patchett
“Jack White is how I’d like to act. You can tell he isn’t faking it and that the band really don’t know what they’re going to play next. It’s abandon. He just lets himself go. Abandon plus skill plus technique. That’s a great cocktail.”— Rachel Weisz
“are the shadow values luminous and not overly heavy?”
— ansel adams
“Paint should not be applied thick. It should be like a breath on the surface of a pane of glass.”
— James Abbot McNeill Whistler
history of human marks: from the most archaeologically primordial of scratches and incisions to the development of the rhythmic dexterities which would generate calligraphy, and then before they could be attached to meaning, would break up into the disrupted and disrupting raw matter of scribble, doodle, and scrawl”
— Simon Scharma on Cy Twombly
noticing is being a tourist in your own life
— frank chimero
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
— Anne Lamont


Big Magic

I made this in first grade

I loved this book. Please don’t dismiss it because the author wrote the Julia Roberts chick flick that you may or may not like.

The gist: art and creativity is very important but don’t kill yourself over it.  Forgive yourself, even if your art isn’t what you expect. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in the book, take art seriously, but not seriously.

Some paintings go through their teenage stage, an awkward, unfinished stage where you’re working stuff out, and you’re too embarrassed to show them in public and all pictures from that time must be deleted.

But if you get too down on yourself or give up too quickly, by taking yourself too seriously or art too seriously, you’ll miss out on some that have real potential to be great .  Now that I look back on some of my rejection piles, I see some that could have been improved if I kept going.

An oil painting still life’s (slow) progress

I was told that my painting looked finished even in its previous stage, but I wanted to further develop the peach colored poppy and the pink ranunculus in the foreground. I really liked what was going on with the background area near the camellia stem and blossoms.

I love watercolors and thinking about how that translates to the transparency in oil paints.  Oil paints excel at providing really great dark tones for luminous, transparent shadows. Certain colors are particularly transparent: alizarin crimson, ultramarine, and sap green. Sap green is the best green ever, it’s so balanced it’s like a neutral color that you could add anywhere. Some greens are too blue or saturated that they look fake when you use too much of them, but sap green is just so agreeable and you can use it even straight out of the tube. I’ve learned one way to make a great grey: mix sap green + alizarin crimson + naples yellow.

At this point in the painting, I’m feel really impatient to be DONE ALREADY.  I keep needing to be reminded not to rush ahead, and to keep knocking back the the shadows, using the darks and midtones. With the peach poppy, I ended up mixing more murky greys and browns and then blending them, than using this awesome salmon color I mixed from yellow ochre + montserrat orange + cadmium red.

To create the yellow stamen and pistil center of the poppy, I used cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, and naples yellow.  (Side note, mixing yellow ochre is good way to add the yellow hue without going too light in value.) 4 tones are needed to create 3 dimensional form, so I attempted to mix 4 ish yellowish tones. Again, I was feeling frustrated because I see this part being so clear and bright, but the first layer  feels very vague and fuzzy.

For the ranunculus, I’m using magentas for the first time in the painting.


3 Ways to Paint

3 Ways to Paint (says me):

  1. Slowly, one layer at a time, giving the paint time to dry. This is very paint by numbers.
    a. For glazing purposes, you can really build glowing colors by applying thin layers of paint on top of previously dried paint.

    b. Or you can paint something that is very graphic, almost like painting a screen print. The colors will come across very vividly.

    For me this is hard because I’m impatient and I find it the most boring way to paint. It’s the least painterly way of painting.
  2. Start with a solid background, and erase, scrape, mold your image. This is the basics of a burnt umber underpainting, you know what they used in all of the old master oil paintings.
  3. Just paint it. Directly, like when you were a kid.

    While I tried to simplify and describe 3 ish ways, the reality is that unless you have the most patience ever and are a perfectionist, you will likely use all of these methods together in a way that only you could to create your painting.
    Generally, the more  fluid your paint, if you’re messy like me, it’s probably better to go a lot slower, and let layers dry (1a) The thicker your paint, the more you can paint wet into wet. (3). There’s some theory around oil painting and when you should be painting thin or thick.

3 Ways to Change the “Color” of your Paint:

  1. Start with color straight from the tube, and create lighter values through dilution with either water, oil, or other solvents.
  2. Add white or black paint to the color straight from the tube.
  3. Make your lighter or darker values, by using other non-white and non-black colors.

This sounds very formulaic but the reality is there are infinite ways to create different colors. The type of materials, the pressure that you apply, and the layering that you apply all can change the colors. And some colors will change just by applying them next to certain colors. Oh and don’t forget colors can dry darker or lighter than they first appear. Do you see why artists are crazy?

One Flower, 4 Ways: A Learning Process

Watercolor can be a battle, and I can end up with unpredictable results. I think that is why I am always drawn towards it. It’s so much fun. But it can get frustrating when the results are as they were today – inconsistent and illogical? I’m trying to find the lessons in today’s studies, because I think they all ended up pretty bad:

  1. This one is the most direct painting. I like the ‘drawing’ and the brushstrokes. But, the colors are too garish. The foreground and background don’t work together. It’s meh. 
  2. This one is working into a wet background, trying to pull the form like I do in oils. It became a muddy mess, yet I love the texture on this one the most and the weird blob cloud that comes out of the blossoms on the lower right is very satisfying to me and feel the most convincing of all the flowers I painted in this session.  But the rest looks like dodoo.
  3. I try to mix between 1 and 2. Here you an see that painting a lighter color over a darker color in watermedia looks really funky -not as much fun as in oils. 
  4. Choosing a focal point and painting in a direct way like in 1 with the most paint. Then in other areas picking a midtone and laying a background wash. Then apply slightly darker layers on top. This one was my favorite of the four studies and I think most successful until it started to get away from me.   I think if I had picked the right mid tones and then waited a little bit until that layer got drier and then went over with slightly darker shadesthat were still close too  that layer and then letting the dilution that comes naturally from adding water to the brush create a gradation. Not only waiting a little longer for the background layer to get dry but also premixing my colors in my palette more to get more accurate mid tones.  Wow I am overthinking it today. What’s next? I think if I was giving advice to someone else I would say simplify and try to keep everything the same and change one thing. I’m going to pull back on the color and try more monochromatic in the next session while focusing on things I learned in 4. Stay posted.

The things in my Oil Painting Part 1

So I’ll be working on this still life oil painting study and looking at the subject for a long time


One thing I learned from slowing down and taking my time with film photography  is to also take a lot more care in what is inside the frame- meaning no photoshop is not going to fix it. It’s far, far easier to move the random thing out from the background, then to photoshop it out. Ansel Adams would supposedly wait hours to make his exposures, waiting for things like a cloud to come or the right lighting to emerge. From all of the design blogs I read and follow on Instagram, I have learned the importance of styling. What  gets me when I am scrolling through Pinterest and I see these technically outstanding works but they are just terrible compositions- the artist must have spent hours looking at these ugly items in order to paint them and I’m like why.

Here’s the fabulous green vase that I found at a vintage store in Portland:

@okoportland do you still have this vase for sale?

A photo posted by Betsyness (@betsyness) on

The store’s proprietor said it is a 19th century German drinking jug- cool!

I found OKO Gallery when it was based in NW Portland. They’re now on Burnside near some other really awesome shops but it’s pretty inconvenient to find parking around there. If you do happen to be in the area check out Redux (I want to buy everything in that store and it’s a great place for gift shopping) and get some yummy chicken from Nong’s Khao  Man Gai.

OKO hired this amazing sign artist to paint their door – I love gold leaf!

The sun is shining! Come say hello!

A photo posted by OKO (@okoportland) on

After I had bought the green jug I took lots of pictures of flowers in it.

And I came across this Cezanne painting on Pinterest. Great minds think alike!