Embracing green...

It is spring and the world is awakening in all shades of green.  I love green.  I think of it as magical and life-affirming.  When I was a small child and my only art materials were crayons and a coloring book I would co,or all the page with other colors then add the green at last.  It was amazing to me van with my child eyes how transforming it was.  I have learned since then the joys of mixing greens from the various blues and yellows in my paint box.  Every combination yields a different shade.  What are your favorite blue - green combos.  I would love to know.

By the way...Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Artfully yours, Chris

What is on the horizon...


Lately I seem to be  painting a lot of landscapes.  There is something quite expansive about a horizon line that develops across the canvas, allowing me to reach far beyond where I can see from where I stand. Rarely are these compositions based on someplace real.  Mostly they are an amalgam of the many horizon lines I have seen over the years.  It's the ability to construct and develop the spaces that satisfies me.  We don't often have the opportunity to construct a reality just as we want it to be.  These landscapes are sometimes spare and othertimes filled with nooks and crannies as if teaming with the lives of the imaginary peoples that inhabit them.  Yes, I have an active and vibrant imagination and with paint, paper, and a few tools I can create a viewpoint from which I can see for miles.  You should try it, you can't beat the airfare!

Speaking of airfare...I'll be heading up to Salem, OR in a week or so to do some teaching and visit with family and friends.  I hope I get to meet some of my friends from the Pacific Northwest!  Come see me Friday evening  and Sunday at Runaway Arts & Crafts for some fun classes or Saturday at The Art Department.  That's the weekend of March 14-16, 2014!  


Artfully yours, Chris

Laying the groundwork...for artful decisions.


I am often asked "how do you begin a painting?"  I think it is time to offer an answer.  My first decision is always about what surface I am going to paint upon.  Why?  Because different surfaces call for different products or techniques.  Yes, it is true that you can use almost any acrylic product on almost any surface created for painting without problems.  But for me if I'm painting on a paper-like surface I want to take advantage of the paper qualities and that will lead me to the next decision. and so on.  Sometimes I decide to alter the surface and apply a textural product to give the surface some added dimension or allow for future decisions.  

After choosing a surface I think about what my foundation color story will be. Usually it is two colors in the same family i.e. two yellows, two blues, etc.  plus one color that when it mixes with the initial two will create cool blends or secondary colors.  

Now I must consider technique.  My options are many: straight paint, paint plus glazing liquid, paint with water, paint and collage??? Water media, impasto, scraffito and so on. The list is pretty broad.  This decision leads me to a choice of  what kinds of acrylic to pull:  Heavy body, Fluids, OPEN, or High Flow.    Each one of these paint types have properties that can be utilized depending on what I want to accomplish.

All this has to happen before I get to pick up a brush.

Before it finally comes to picking up the brush I have one more question I must ask myself.  In what style?  Contemporary, Folk, Whimsical, realistic, impressionist, fantasy, or abstract?

The piece that is shown in this blog post shows a piece where I made all of those decisions and took the first step to laying down the foundation.  Here are my decisions: 

Surface:  Canson Water Color Board

Foundation Color Story:  Cobalt Teal, Phthalo Blue GS, Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold

Technique:  Water Media

Paint Type: High Flow Acrylics

Style: Impressionistic

I will admit that I went one step past my color story and blocked in some areas at the bottom with Van Dyke Brown Hue Fluid Acrylic since I don't have that color in High Flow.  Now, only time will tell what happens next.  I guess you will just have to wait to find out.

How do you begin a painting?

Artfully yours, Chris

Winter days...


It's nearing the end of another year.  2013 has been amazing all around.  The success of our book Acrylic Solutions and the DVD's that pair with it has been energizing, along with the fun project of designing stencils with Artistcellar.  I've done more than my share of teaching this year as well and have met so many terrific people.  I thank each of you because you are who inspire me to come up with more and more ways to make acrylics sing!  It takes the combination of your enthusiasm and my imagination to get the wheels turning. Your quesstions always fuel my mind to seek ways to respond with creative solutions or techniques.  I hope you never stop asking questions. 

At times it gets so busy with the teaching part that I forget to paint for myself.  The winter light darkens the studio by 3 in the afternoon and I don't like painting with artificial light.  I did get to spend a bit of time remaking a piece this week.  It's on it's third life actually.  I will post the last life at the end.  This piece just feels like winter to me.  I live in SoCal as you know.  But winter changes here too.  The mornings can be foggy and sometimes frosty and by late afternoon the sky takes on that blue almost gray color we know as Paynes' Gray.  There are mountains all around Pasadena.  Winter is the best time to see them.  So here is to winter days whereever you are, to new beginnings in 2014, to more inspiration and to continued artful adventures.


Artfully yours, Chris

Text and Texture...what a combo! New stencils from Artistcellar and Jill Berry. That means a giveaway is in order!

IMG_3665She stood with her back to the sun...12/2013


I am ALWAYS happy to receive new stencils in the mail to work with.  When I first opened Jill Berry's new designs I will have to say I was not only happy, but very inspired.  I love text and Jill does text like no one else.  With Jill's designs the text is mysterious and playful, textural and strong.  What's not to love.  So I'm  here to say, these are a must.  You know how this plays out.  Leave me a comment and I'll pick a winner.  But personally, I would order a set today!  Then you'll be able to create some winning additions to your art work!  Don't just leave a message on my blog, check out all the other amazing participants and see how they have utilized the stencils in this set!

Each artist in the list below will be giving away a FREE set of stencils to one lucky winner who leaves a comment AND their contact info. (This part is very important! Leave an email so they can contact you.) Each artist will decide when they will pick a winner so be sure to read the post. The schedule will be as follows:

*12/7 Artistcellar www.artistcellar.com/wp
*12/9 Sketchbook Challenge/Jill http://sketchbookchallenge.blogspot.com/
*12/10 Brian Kasstle http://apaperbear.wordpress.com
*12/11 Mel Kolstad http://reliefpress.blogspot.com
*12/12 Kim Rae Nugent  http://www.kimraenugent.blogspot.com
*12/14 Effy Wild www.effywild.com
*12/15 Tamara Laporte  www.willowing.org/blog
*12/16 Jane Davenport  http://janedavenport.com/
*12/18 Guadalupe Brizuela Cabal http://guadasartplace.blogspot.com.ar/                             
 *12/19 Jill Berry  http://jillberrydesign.com/blog

But wait… there’s more! The Artistcellar Design Team will also be giving away a set of stencils. Each day you will have a chance to leave a comment on that designers post for a chance to win. So that’s FIVE extra chances to win. Of course you can always buy TEXTures 2 by Jill Berry on the website.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Have a wonderful December!

Artfully yours, Chris

Art as "Soul Food"...



I'm part of an international artful adventure called "Soul Food" which launches in December.  I was asked to participate many months ago and it has been a work in process for all the particpants.  The very nature of the title compelled me to participate for a number of reasons.  First art is my soul food, pure and simple.  I am happiest when I'm painting and creating and lost in a world of color and design. I love sharing art with people.  There is also another reason.  This unique adventure pairs art and food!  What a combination!  Each of the many (36) artists participating are sharing art and a recipe that nourishes the soul either through the associations, the tastes, or the experience of preparing it. If you want to enroll, we would LOVE to have you join us.  Just click here for info.


I'm giving away a free spot in this class to someone who reads this blog.  If for some reason I select someone who has already enrolled then that person can give away the free spot to a friend.  Just leave a comment as to why art nourishes your soul and a way to contact you and I'll pick the winner the Monday after Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful week and nourish your soul with some art and the delicious tastes of this bountiful season.

Artfully yours, Chris

A little bit of magic....

You all already know how I love stencils and that I use them a lot.  I've loved stencils for a very long time and it is such a pleasure to see wonderful designs popping up almost daily.  Artistcellar has released a new set that is delightfully whimsical and it arrived just in time for my classes last weekend which used a lot of stenciling.  They were a big hit!  The artist is Tamara LaPorte (a/k/a Willowing).  You all may know her.  You can visit her blog tomorrow.  In the meantime let me share what I made to take to my grandsons Wednesday when I go across the US to visit them.  I used the cute "city scene" in one of the "whimsy" set to do a pop-up version and expanded it as well.  The words are from the second set(inspiration) and just finish off the piece delightfully. 

And...two readers will get a prize!  I have a set of stencils for two people.  One of you will get Tam's Whimsy set and one of you Tam's inspiration set...so please leave a comment and contact information on my blog so we can pick a winner early next week!  No go do some stenciling!




I also made a little "good night" piece to take them using part of a stencil from Tam's Second set of stencils,  on a black background using interference and iridescent paint to make the colors really glow.
Please visit all the past blog participants to see what they have done with Tam's new signature series at Artistcellar.com and while you are visiting the website be sure to pick up a set of my stencils from them as well.  

10/28 Dawn DeVries Sokol http://www.dawndsokol.com
10/29 Carla Sonheim carlasonheim.wordpress.com
11/1 Effy Wild www.effywild.com
11/3 Jane Davenport http://janedavenport.com
11/5 Tamara Laporte www.willowing.org/blog
Artfully yours, Chris


Of all the thousands of pictures I took when we spent a month in Italy recently, I chose this one to talk about today.  Why?  This small patch of wall was found in a hill city in Tuscany and is a testimony to the tradition of reusing and reinventing.  Found in this wall are elements from previous cultures, eras, other buildings, tombs, and more.  I have encountered these kinds of sites in many places I have traveled.  You see it in the ancient wall in the old city of Jerusalem where the Temple had been destroyed and rebuilt using bits and pieces from what had been rubble.

I liken this to the process we use when we do collage and assemblage.  Our "gatherer" genes hate to see things that are useful, beautiful, or interesting go to waste.  As you glean your supplies for your next mixed media or collage projects I hope you recognize that you are part of a long tradition. Over the weeks ahead I will share more inspiration with you.  In the meantime keep your eyes open for the little visual treasures around you.  I'm happy to be home again and back in the studio, with new inspirations and ideas to act upon.

Artfully yours, Chris

Making mistakes and repairing them...

For the last few weeks I've been taking a hard look at some of my old work to determine just what is really worth saving and what needs to move on or move out.   It might have something to do with the time of the year.  We are approaching the Jewish High Holy Days.  It's not all about wishing everyone a "happpy new year" and eating good food.  It marks a serious time when we are supposed to be self-reflective, evaluative.  It is a time that also prompts us to do "repairs" where things are needed.  This might mean that we need to ask forgiveness or fix a wrong that we have created.  This concept spilled over into my artful life as I started the "make-over" of several old pieces.  I began thinking of how often we give up on a new skill or task because it seems too hard at first.  Remember how we used to ball up our drawing after only a couple of pencil marks because it just wasn't right?  Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them, "fixing" them as it were.    If only we could approach our life that way-- accepting our shortcomings and embracing new opportunities to learn from our mistakes.  Banish the blame, accept our limitations and learn to move forward every day.The best thing about artful mistakes is that each subsequent layer or addition only makes the surface richer and more textured. I want to embrace that in my everyday life!

With the approach of the new year I am making a commitment to revisit old skills and techniques and make them new again, reinvest in old surfaces transforming them into vibrant compelling pieces, and to giving my students the benefit of my experience and the wisdom of my age.  I won't hoard my treasures or my secrets but share them and give them the opportunity to become a part of someone else's artful life.  What things old are you willing to give a new life?  

Artfully yours, Chris

A little bit of magic...

It always amazes me how something catches on.  Take the Gelli Plate for example or stencils.  I see so many posts about people making page after page of prints on their Gelli plate using various stencils.  My curiosity is up.  What are you doing with all of these prints?  My imagination sees stacks of papers printed and a little voice crying out "use me."  So I'm going to share How I use prints I pull from the little 6x6 plate I have in my studio.  I like tearing those prints up and inserting them into my collage /mixed -media work.  Little bits of pattern really pick up background interest a lot.  I also like using them to develop structure.  Tearing long strips and adhering them to a blank background really helps me get a focus on a composition.  You can learn more about this idea of "structure" in my book (with Julie Prichard):  Acrylic Solutions:  Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer.

Today I wanted to do try to create my own spin on this current rage.  I got out my little plate, my favorite stencils (I do have a lot of stencils, you know.) and decided to try to shake things up with printing on black paper.  That immediately got me thinking about using interference and iridescent paints with my colors so that the paints would really POP off the surface.  I am thrilled with the  result and now have a handy stack of magnificent collage pieces to add to my future work.  The best part is when I tear that black paper I get a fabulous black line.  How much better can that get?

OK, so 'fess up.  This is the audience participation part.  What are YOU doing with all your Gelli-plate prints?  I really do want to know!  I'll send someone an envelope with some of my metallic prints for the most creative answer.  No random numbers, just my fave.  Leave your email somewhere in the post!


Artfully yours, Chris