02 December 2014

27 November 2014

Perfect Start skyscape, palette knife painting

Perfect Start skyscape
Palette knife painting in oils
40x50 (18"x20") on narrow gallery wrapped canvas

Another beautiful start to the day.

We have had such a lot of rain this month, and several grey days with severe flooding in many areas. November is the rainiest month, but we've had more than our fair share. This painting reminds me what it was like before the rain set in!

Some close-ups


What it would look like framed

09 November 2014

Tree grouping study

 I am planning to paint a larger landscape painting. Two recent attempts were not too successful, so before diving straight in, I plan to do some studies of the various elements in the paintings. In my eagerness to put paint to canvas, I confess that I often miss out these steps. As an insight into the way I think preparing for a painting should work I am sharing some of the process with you, including the bad and the ugly.

I am starting with a study of a group of trees, so typical in the landscape of Provence.


Using a black chisel-end marker, I painted the negative space around the group of trees. A black marker is an ideal way to figure out the overall shape. In this instance I used the negative space (space around the object) but it also works using the positive (actual) shape of the object. I normally use a marker with a 1½" tip, but it had run dry, so I made do with a normal sharpie marker.

Good points about the sketch
  • Good negative abstract shapes between the tree trunks which are all different.
Bad points
  • The tree group fits into a square shape (using the left hand side of my brain instead of the right)
  • Right hand side is very round
Again using a black marker and trying to make a better overall shape

 Good Points
  • Better shape
  • Negative space between trunks still good.
Bad Points
  • Dips in the top of the trees almost the same
  • Two similar shapes appearing on the lhs of the tree - Just when you think you have sorted it, the left hand brain kicks in again.
To fuhter improve the shape, white acrylic can be used to work back into the ink. In this case I used pastel as it was a quicker than getting out my acrylics.

Study 3 - Tonal study
I used a dark grey, light grey and off white pastel for this study, acrylic is also good. This shows how the form starts to come through without using much detail.

Study 4 - Tonal study on coloured paper
Using the same pastels as above, a fourth study. Getting better but still not spot on.

Two things need improving:
  • I need to remove the first dip at the top of the tree which will give the left hand side of the grouping more height
  • I need to extend part of the right side outwards.
 I imported this into photoshop and made a few rough changes
much better.

These studies took me about half an hour to do. It's a great way of working out the shape of trees and keeping it loose.

What do you do to prepare for larger paintings or practice different elements of the landscape? Let me know in the comments (also leave a link) and I will include a summary in a future blog.

08 November 2014

Wildflowers again - Provence Meadow palette knife painting

Provence Meadow palette knife painting
15x15cm (6x6inch) oil on box canvas 1.5cm deep

Can you guess I love painting this meadow. This is my third painting, and probably not my last. I cheated (sorry, I mean used my artistic license)  a little with this one by replacing the distant vineyard with an olive grove.

 For comparison I am showing the previous two
Field of flowers
Palette knife painting
Oil on box canvas/6"x6"

Willdflower Confetti
Palette knife painting
15x20cm (6x8inch) on 1.5cm deep box canvas
The edges have been painted black so a frame is unnecessary.

I've been asked to show the original reference for these paintings, and here it is

04 November 2014

Wildflower Confetti palette knife painting in oil

Willdflower Confetti
Palette knife painting
15x20cm (6x8inch) on 1.5cm deep box canvas
The edges have been painted black so a frame is unnecessary.

This is another painting of the wildflowers that we came across last July (see here) from a different view point and different treatment.

Some close-ups

20 October 2014

Guarding the Lavender palette knife painting

Guarding the Lavender
Oil, Palette knife painting
18x24cm on Italian canvas panel

About this painting
This is another of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge paintings that needed a few more touches to finish it off.

Some close-ups of the knife work

And how it would look framed

13 October 2014

Blog Hopping across the world - Introducing artists I admire

I'm participating in a Blog Hop. I can hear you say "What's a Blog Hop?". It is a way to get to know about other artists you may not be aware of. 

And, to show that art is truly international and artists work in a world-wide community, I was introduced by Sea Dean who lives in Canada, I live in France and my spotlight artist live in New Mexico and Scotland.  Pop over to see the wonderful art produced by all three artists, all different and unique.

When I completed Art School I always intended to pursue a career in art and literature, but I had migrated to small town Canada, where there was little opportunity in my chosen field. I allowed life to get in the way, until a series of catastrophic events brought me back into alignment. Since then I’ve approached my art with the same passion and determination that I have applied to all my past achievements.

Art is not easy; it takes a special type of courage to make it your profession, but I’m no stranger to that. For me, it is important, to keep growing as an artist, keep pushing the boundaries and discovering new techniques. And paramount to my experience is the opportunity to pass on my knowledge to others, which I do in my PAINT A MASTERPIECE classes and through my Facebook group GET YOUR ART OUT THERE.

If in my journey, I create something which brings joy to another human being, or if I help a person rediscover their passion, I have truly achieved.



I have admired Carol handling of light and colour for a long time, and I am pleased to introduce her.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Carol moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico following earning degrees in both Minnesota and Iowa.  She later studied Interior Design through the New York School of Interior Design, and Fine Art under the tutelage of professional artists including Dreama Tolle Perry, Ramon Kelley and Carolyn Anderson.  Carol’s earliest influence in art was her creative mother through whom Carol became a “child artist” using “Paint by Number”.  Carol thought her “paintings” were so beautiful she continue her exploration of art in many forms.

Carol’s love for travel and art is reflected in her superb landscape paintings.  She captures the mood of her subject whether it is the dramatic light of southern France, the quaint towns in Italy and Mexico, or the brilliance of dappled light in the fjords of Norway.  Those many trips have inspired exquisite flower paintings, paintings of charming buildings as well as pairings of the rugged beauty of the coast and crashing ocean waves.

Carol’s style continue to evolve as she grows as an artist.  She  enjoys taking workshops from the best painters.  Carol doesn’t feel she can be limited in subject matter or a particular color palette.  She uses palette knives as well as brushes.  She is both a plein air and studio artist.

Carol exhibits her work in some of the finest shows.  She works in oils.

I've admired Margaret's work for a long time. Her use of tone is fantastic. I'm hoping to make my way up to Scotland on one of my trips to the UK to see her work in person.

"I am an oil and pastel painter. I love still life, portraits and life drawing is a passion. I work and teach in the beautiful "Artist's Town" of Kirkcudbright in Galloway, Scotland.
Like most artists I am attracted to the play of light. I work in Winsor and Newton Artisan, water mixable oils to avoid as many nasty chemicals as possible.

Blog - http://margaretsmilligan.blogspot.com
Facebook -MargaretSMilliganFineArt
Website - www.margaretsmilligan.co.uk

And MY ANSWERS to  the blog hop questions:

1. What are you working on?

I've just been working on some autumn paintings. I love using those rich yellows, reds and oranges. I have also recently finished a 30 paintings in 30 challenge hosted by Leslie Saeta. The main challenge is thinking of something different to paint everyday. 

What will I be painting next? Not sure, but I am off on a trip to Catalonia for a few days, so maybe I'll be inspired to paint something from that trip. I am always full of ideas when I return from a trip.

I also plan to start painting larger Provence scenes and really hone my landscape skills.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

 I use a lot of colour and my paintings are quite colourful. I paint mostly with a palette knife, as I like the texture and the way the colours stay clear and bright. I like to 'chase the light'  which livens up the paintings.

3. Why do I create what I do?
Because I love it. The joy of creating something from nothing can't be beaten. Painting also colours my life, wherever I am, I am thinking of suitable ideas for paintings and on trips it has added another dimension to life.  When on trips, I am always searching out the local artists and appreciate other peoples work much more.

4. How does my creative process work?
It goes in fits and starts. I get enthusiastic about a subject and can't wait to start painting. At other times it takes a little longer! My inspiration comes from photos I have taken or my garden. I am a keen gardener and grow many of the subjects in my paintings. My studio is my house, and although I have nominally turned one of the bed rooms into a studio, I am rarely in it, preferring to paint outside whenever the sun is shining, on the balcony when it is not so good and even in the lounge during the winter. My completed paintings are all around the living room drying giving us a constantly changing gallery.

09 October 2014

Autumn Quiet oil painting

Autumn Calm oil painting
With a nod to Emil Gruppe
Oil on 3-ply wood gesso panel
20x30cm (approx 7x12inches)
Available on Daily Paintworks

I came across a painting 'Autumn in Vermont' by Emil Gruppe and loved the light he captured in it.

I roughly sketched in the composition and continued the painting without looking at the reference as although influenced by him, I wanted this to be my painting.

About this painting
I am starting a love-hate relationship with this surface. It is so smooth. I usually like to work on a textured ground and, although I added an additional layer of gesso, it was still quite smooth and very absorbent. I was fighting the board a bit and so resorted to using a brush in combination with the knife. The paint also dries much quicker on this surface. It is brilliant white, and although I used a multicoloured underpainting (cool colours for dark areas and warm colours for light areas) I think the painting has a nice luminous feel to it.

Some Close-ups

And how it would look framed

07 October 2014

Autumn Sunlight palette knife painting

Autumn Sunlight palette knife painting
oil on canvas MDF panel
18x24cm (approx 7"x10")
Available on Daily Paintwork

This painting evolved from a similar painting from last year - Autumn Explosion. To ring the changes I added more of a foreground and used more yellow.  This week's challenge on Daily Paintworks is 'Fall' so this one fitted right in. has received some favourable comments and has had lots of hits since I posted it.

About this painting
Although it looks like it's painted with wild abandon, I have tried to carefully balance the colours for warm against cool and brighter to greyer to give some depth. I debated about the green foreground  (should it be ochre? should it be green?) but decided to leave the green as a contrast to the warm oranges and yellows. When I had finished I noticed that the yellow highlights were right in the center - but who made the rules anyway?!

The painting has lots of layers and will take a while to dry.

Some close-ups

01 October 2014

30 paintings in 30 day challenge Collage

 30 paintings in 30 day challenge
Collage of all 30 paintings.

Well, another challenge over and 30 paintings completed. Once again it was fun and, well, challenging. Because of the size of some of the paintings, a few still needed those final touches. I managed to finish a few today and will finish the rest over the next couple of days.

The completed paintings are available here. I will add the others as they are finished.

Thank you to everyone who commented for your support and encouragement and especially to Leslie Saeta for hosting. To view the participants final collages, visit Leslie Saeta's blog

30 September 2014

Co-ordinated Bathing Belles, Day 30 of 30 day challenge

Co-ordinated Bathing Belles
Palette Knife Painting
20x30cm / 8x12inches on loose canvas sheet
I will be offering this painting in my next newsletter
sign-up to see how you can own this painting.
Contact me about this or any other painting on artbymarion (at) orange.fr

After the long summer holidays the beaches on the Riviera are much quieter and it is then the 'wrinkly season' (I'm allowed as I'm in that category myself!) The older generation take the opportunity to soak up the sun and relax. The sun is much kinder and not so fierce in September.

About this painting
An unusual subject for me but I couldn't resist this group of woman enjoying the sun at Freyjus beach. Once again, possibly a subject for a larger painting as there is too much detail and I had to stop myself fussing.
It was mid-day when I took the photo so the shadows were small. I wondered if I should have elongated the shadows for a better composition.

29 September 2014

Lavender Guard, Day 29, 30 day challenge

Lavender Guard
Palette knife painting
18x24cm on Canvas board

I was drawn to two trees standing guard by the side of a lavender field. They stood out from the flatness of the lavender fields all around them.

About this painting

Sometimes paintings fight against you and this was one of them. I started out with the two trees but decided it was too busy, so I totally wiped the painting and concentrated on the one tree, which was the one I wanted to paint because of it's twisting branches. I struggled though and now it looks over-worked. I need to decide whether or not to try to rescue this one or just bin it and start again. No painting is a total disaster, and I can take forward some of the ideas from this one.

28 September 2014

Haut Alpes Plains SOLD - Day 28, 30 day challenge

Haut Alpes Plains
Oil on Canvas Panel
18x24cm (approx 7x10inch)
SOLD commissions welcomed
artbymarion (at) orange.fr

This painting is on its way to Virginia in the US. Thank you Leslie.

For years I was puzzled why many lavender fields in the Alpes-de-Haut-Provence seem to be left to go 'wild', It's such a contrast to the normally neat rows of lavenders that seem to carry on for miles. This year I found out. It is not that they are abandoned, but because they are grown ecologically with no herbicides. This makes for a much more interesting subject to paint, with the wild flowers popping up through the lavender and adding variety.

27 September 2014

Suit Home Handy Man - Day 27, 30 day challenge

'Suit Home Handyman'
Abandoned building Provence
Palette knife painting
Oil on 40x50x4cm box canvas (16"x20")
Available 95€, international shipping included.

There are many abandoned buildings amongst the lavender fields. What are their stories? What were they for? dwellings? stock? storage? Why does no-one care? Why are they still standing? Too many questions and no answers.

About this painting
I have lots of photos of abandoned buildings of one sort or another because I think they are interesting, but have never used them in a painting. I cropped the photo but as I started painting, realised I had not cropped it close enough so I had to increase the size of the building. I still have to fight my tendency to put in too much detail, the painting was about the building so I concentrated on that.

Some close-ups showing the layers of paint

And how it would look in a floating frame.

26 September 2014

Autumn Fire oil painting - Day 26, 30 day challenge

Autumn Fire
Palette knife painting
40x50cm on box canvas 4cm wide
Sides painted black for hanging unframed.
Contact me about this or any other painting at
artbymarion (at) orange.fr

This is an autumn scene from the Harz mountains in Germany. The days can be bitter cold in October so we took advantage of the sunshine and went for a walk in the Harz mountains to be greeted by these wonderful birches showing off.

About this painting
This painting has had a make over. I first painted it at the same time I painted . I liked it but there was something that kept niggling at me so I put it to the side and never published it. Yesterday it hit me - there was not enough 'breathing' space. The original photo showed a mass of foliage and, you've guessed it, that is what I painted. It also had the same high octane colour everywhere.

I let in some air and toned down the colours around the edges and created more of a focal area. It may still need some work, (the area top left is a bit too uniform) so I will leave it for a couple of days before posting it for sale.

Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the original version.

Some close-ups

25 September 2014

Misty Morning Curbar Edge - Day 25, 30 day challenge

Misty Morning Curbar Edge
palette knife painting
18x24cm oil on MDF canvas panel
NFS work in progress

Curbar edge is one of my favourite places to go walking. It is in the Peak District in the heart of England. On this day it was very misty and the rocks were dark and broody against the sky. The heather was blooming giving the moors a lovely pink/purple glow despite the gloom.

About this painting
This is painted from a photograph taken a few years ago. I tried to get the misty look and show the strength in the granite rocks. I don't feel I suceeded very well. The foreground, rocks and hills take up almost equal spaces on the canvas (maybe I should have done more planning), also the green background and foreground are competing.

Using Photoshop I manipulated the photo trying to push the hills more into the background and increase the prominence of the rock. This is what I came up with.
In fact, I think I shall try to emphasise the rocks even more. I'd be interested in your ideas.