The Challenges of Painting Bones | The Pelvis

Have you ever tried painting bones? It may have been something you did in art school or in studying the human form. Bones are not a typical subject because of they can carry emotional content, which can be different for everyone.

Painting bones the pelvisHaving created a large body of work entitled, “No Time for Idle Hands,” that featured the hand as the subject to communicate my visual message, I drew and studied the hand/arm bones many times. This was necessary for me to learn how to ultimately paint the hand correctly and with feeling. I created this series of paintings from 1994-2000.

Recently, I have decided to return to the subject of bones but with a twist. This series is entitled “Your Inner Core.” My focus for this body of work is on the important role our skeletal system plays in our lives, despite our tendency to forget them because they are difficult to see and feel. We often do not give them the attention we should until something breaks or we are in pain.

Where and how did I begin to learn about painting bones that I had not drawn, painted or studied previously?

First, I did some preliminary research on the internet, which is full of images of bones. Photos of bones taken be other people does not tell the story. I needed the real thing – a life-sized human skeleton. Hence, I began calling the offices of my doctors, asked anyone I knew and even posted a request on Facebook. Through a circuitous route I was able to have access to a skeleton that was in a local biology classroom. After several hours of sketching and many photographs, I had my first group of resources. I was jazzed!

Next I had to tackle the artistic problems and my goals in painting bones. They are listed below. [Read more...]

5 Mistakes Artists Make Painting & Drawing Hands

Historically, many artists have had difficulty painting and drawing hands. Edgar Degas often obscured the hands of his ballerinas or painted them incorrectly, whereas Mary Cassatt knew the hand well and never shied away from them.

Why are hands a challenge to paint and draw? In this post, I will outline the top 5 common mistakes artists make. These mistakes will point out the difficulties in drawing hands while explaining how they can be drawn correctly. Hands are known as the most difficult subject to draw. Interestingly, even non-artists know this.

drawing handsSeveral years ago I painted a large body of work (26 pieces) where I featured the hand as the subject to tell my visual story. Through the power of hands, I commemorated the women of the 1800′s, conveying the important contributions they made to the United States. The series is entitled, “No Time for Idle Hands.” My book describing my process and experiences is titled, “An Artist’s Journey with the Women of the West.”  The watercolor painting above is “Always on the Move.”

The common 5 mistakes artists make painting and drawing hands:

1. Artists tend to rely on their visual dictionary when painting and drawing hands. It is important to let-go of this visual history and really LOOK at the hand you want to draw. Because we see our hands all day long, we have a tendency to make assumptions when drawing hands.

2. It is important to notice the negative spaces between our fingers. It is easy to get caught up in drawing the fingers and palm/back of the hand, meanwhile you loose the essence of what you want the hand is to be doing when the negative spaces are not accurately seen. For example, in “Prized Possession,” (below) you can see the various negative spaces I had to draw to convey that this woman was playing a pump organ keyboard.

drawing hands on key board [Read more...]

Five Ways to Sabotage Your Color Mixing | Color Theory Tip

Are you aware how you might be sabotaging your color mixing? Do any of these color mixing myths seem familiar? Many painters experience frustration with color without realizing they have sabotaged themselves. You…

1. Refuse to Know Your Pigments. It makes sense that anyone in the painting business should keep up with their industry, right? But many artists don’t have a true understanding and are unaware of the many ways their pigments work. Trans-W-C

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to learn about your pigments. Every manufacturer provides information about their pigments. However, you do need to learn the 5 characteristics of each of your colors and the only way to do that is spend the them getting to know them. I like to approach each tube of paint as I do each brush and palette knife I use – each one has its own personality.

The image above shows how you can assess the transparency of your pigments no matter your medium. Paint a strip of black acrylic paint, let it dry and then with one brush stroke using paint straight from the tube, paint a stripe of each pigment across the black paint. Discoveries will undoubtedly happen.

2. Insist that using and a mixing color is intuitive. Did you learn to ride by intuition? Did you just jump on it and ride off in the wind? Most likely you needed some instruction, coaching and perhaps training wheels. After several crashes, bruises and growing physically stronger, you were shouting, “Look mom, no hands!” and riding a bike became intuitive. The same principle works with using and mixing color. [Read more...]

The Hands are Back! — How My Art has Evolved

From 1995-2001, I was consumed with creating a body of work that became known as “No Time for Idle Hands.” I painted 26 watercolor pieces (and a few pencil drawings) commemorating the women of the 1800′s. It was a social political statement giving a visual voice to the women who made significant contributions to this country. These women were (and still are) depicted incorrectly – as unwilling partners or Madonnas – though most women knew exactly what they were doing and why.

No Time for Idle Hands


In my book, “Painting My Passion: An Artist’s Journey with the Women of the West,” I describe how this series changed my life and opened many doors. For example, I began creating commissions of people’s hands, mostly in pencil. I call them “handportraits,” – from musicians to a MLB baseball pitcher to young children. hands on fluteFlute player in pencil (cropped).

Then I crashed and burned. Well, not completely, but I needed a change after “No Time for Idle Hands,” took a traveling tour around the mid- and southwest. [Read more...]

I Love Being an Introvert …most of the time

Why do I love being an introvert? Because I can spend time alone without angst and without feeling a sense that I am missing out on something. There is comfort in feeling total acceptance in a quiet space or at work, particularly if I am surrounded by nature or if it is nearby.

love being an introvertAs a child – despite being a middle child of 4 and middle children are rarely introverts – I could spend hours playing without needing regular or constant attention. (My mother later said that she appreciated this.) As a young adult, however, I received negative messages that I was odd. I had friends and enjoyed a few social events, but I intuitively I knew I needed alone time. I did not have a clue why this was a part of who I was.

It was not until I was nearly 30 years old that I discovered more about myself. I learned where my psychic energy came from, why I sought nature for solace and what essentially made me tick. How did I learn this?

Soon to be married, I requested my then fiance to attend a couples’ weekend workshop. (BTW, we have been married 30+ years!) Prior to attending, we each completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory. This questionnaire  provides guidelines on how we each perceive and react to our world. It is designed “to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives.”  Each workshop attendee was given our results and then we learned more about ourselves, our partners and how we tend to communicate. It was a real eye opener.  Here are a few of the activities we were asked to do by the presenter. She would present a situation and then asked each of the 30 of us to physically stand and line up in a continuum:

  • If you are going to celebrate a significant birthday, line up between wanting a) to spend it with one or a couple of close friends, to b) inviting a lot of people for a boisterous party.
  • When you travel for a vacation, where would you land on this spectrum? a) spend it at a quiet cabin with some exploration, to b) go on a cruise with a tour group with tons of activities all day long.
  • If you are needing to solve a personal problem, what are you most likely to do? a) go for a walk in the woods, to b) call up several friends to discuss the problem.

[Read more...]

The Words “Day Job” Takes Power Away From Your Work

Why do creatives continually refer to their other job as a “day job?” Are you aware that those words take power away from your real work?


I have never understood the phrase “my day job.” In fact, it’s feels like chalk screeching on a black board every time I hear it. Do artists say it without thinking what they are actually saying? Words have power – significant power. I would like to suggest that you be more consciously aware of the words you choose before you say words such as, “my real job,” or “my day job.”

When I started my art career (my third career) over 25 years ago, I quickly learned to tell people I was “working.” I did not say, “I am painting.” That made a huge difference in their minds as well as my own. I believe that they somehow thought I was playing or doing something trivial that did not require my full attention.

I had to, and continue to, educated friends and family that I had business hours and to please not call me about personal matters during my business hours. (My mother never liked this and never understood it even when I would mention to her that she didn’t call me at my other jobs.) When I was under contract as a consultant, meetings had to be scheduled. Whenever they asked for my availability on Thursday afternoons, I would say that I was booked at that time. They didn’t need to know that that was my time to go to painting class.

words day job take power awayChoosing to use words, such as, “When I get off from my day job,” “I have Wednesday off, then I can paint,” “At my day job, I….,” and “People wonder why I don’t have a real job,” impact what you experience. Most of us don’t realize that the words we use habitually have impact. The words “day job” takes power away from your work. By changing your habitual vocabulary—the words you consistently use to describe  your life and work—can change how you think, feel and how you live. It can change the direction of your art business and how you perceive and feel about it.

Also, notice when you say “day job,” how the energy in your voice changes. Yet, when you talk about your real workyour art makingyour energy goes back up. Can you hear how the words “day job” takes power away from your work? Energetically, negative feelings surround the other job you have as well as your work as an artist.

What other words can we use besides “day job” to stop taking power away from your work as an artist? How about, “At my second job, I….,” “I work in my studio on Wednesdays,” “I am available from my other job at…,” and for those who question you about your real work as an artist, consider this giving them this bumper sticker.

words day job takes power away

Other suggestions are welcome. I would love to hear other artist’s ideas because I know we can be creative with words as well as with clay, paint and metal.

Let’s debunk the myth that making art is not real work  because we all know that it is! Art changes and saves lives. We need to use words that convey the power of art and its impact on the world. Your job as an artist is very real and it requires more work than you probably thought possible when you started and, yet, you keep doing it.

Let’s celebrate your work as an artist with powerful words.

This quote serves as a good ending: “Words can inspire.  And words can destroy.  Choose yours wisely,” Robin Sharma

If you found this article interesting, please share it with others. Your comments are always welcome.