Archive for the How to Paint Category

It’s a Dog’s Life!

Posted in art, Family, How to Paint, Painting, Watercolors with tags , on January 16, 2018 by sebland

There are times an artist must search far and wide for inspiration. Then there are times when opportunities literally fall into your lap. I have four grandchildren, one great grandchild, two grand cats and four grand dogs. Generally I can keep them all straight, but now and then my kids slip a new one in on me. Limo, a fine beautiful basset hound, who weighs almost as much as I do and strongly resembles a hippo as he lurches across the floor, came to live with daughter and her husband several months ago. With eyes that make you feel guilty even while feeding him, he made a great model for a portrait. His foster brother Rowdy has a lot more color, making Limo a bit more challenging to paint. I did several sketches and yesterday completed a watercolor I liked a lot. Then I remembered Rowdy’s portrait was vertically oriented, and since they’ll hang side by side, I went back to the drawing board. I haven’t painted a lot of animals, but I think I captured Limo pretty well. Dogs wear their souls in their eyes, I think. He’s a wise old guy and I’m glad he has a happy home.


Coping with Commissions

Posted in Acrylics, art, How to Paint, inspiration, Painting, Watercolors with tags , , , on January 14, 2018 by sebland

To be really honest, I’m not terribly comfortable about commissions. I have enough trouble bringing my own ideas to the canvas, much less trying to interpret another person’s visions. This one, however, is quite large and I know and trust my patron’s faith in me, so I’m taking it on. The space is wide – six feet, but only 26″ tall, so we’ve settled on three 24 x 24″ canvases, side by side. She loves bright colors, lots of friends around her, and just lost her husband, so this one  must be a narrative of the joy of life and the way we love and support one another. My way to begin is to sketch with watercolor the feelings, the emotions and some of the things I know she’s looking for. Then I’ll prime and begin in acrylics to paint the panels. This triptych may take a little while and may undergo many changes. I invite you to travel along with me and we’ll see where this one takes us. I’ll bet the finished product will bear little resemblance to this first sketch!

What the Shepherds Saw

Posted in art, Christmas, holidays, How to Paint, inspiration, Painting, Watercolors with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2017 by sebland

imageOne of my great joys in December is designing my own Christmas cards. I play with ideas, and find I really like to use new tools and see where they lead me. Recently, two of my art friends shared pure pigments in powder form with me, and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. I don’t know if this is the design I will go with this year, but I have had a good time with it. After spritzing a sheet of watercolor paper, I scattered the dry pigments and was amazed at the bursts of color that appeared. I had cut out some rough figures and a star and laid them on my paper first, so I got this neat three dimensional effect. With a brush I enhanced behind the figures and while I’m not sure I’m finished, I do like the overall theme of my design. Running through my mind was the phrase: “And in that region there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, and lo! An angel of the Lord appeared, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to men!” Not a bad way to begin the holidays, I think! Even if this isn’t the final product, it’s put me in a good place. Hope it has that affect on you, too!

The Angels Danced

Posted in Acrylics, art, How to Paint, inspiration, Painting, Watercolors with tags , , , , on November 30, 2017 by sebland

imageI received a gift once from a loved one on my birthday. It read:”The angels danced on the day you were born.” That touched me deeply. Now as Christmas is approaching, it troubles me that folks feel all frazzled and pressured, shoving others out of the way to find bargains, arguing over where to celebrate the Christmas feast, feeling inadequate when they can’t buy the latest toy being promoted on television, or stressing out over getting it all done. Whose birthday is it anyway? For whom did the angels sing? Who the shepherds rush to see? Whose star shone so brightly that really wise men came bearing gifts? Come on people, take a deep breath and try putting things back in perspective. I plan to make an effort every day to back away from the crowds, look for simpler pleasures, sincerely wish everyone I meet a Merry Christmas. If that offends you, Happy Holidays! I just want everyone I know to enjoy this time of year when for a little while, if we listen carefully, we may hear an angel sing, or spy an especially bright star in the sky. Maybe just for a little while we can put aside our differences, our striving for the perfect gift and just appreciate the amazing miracle that we celebrate. Sometimes I think the miracle of Christmas is that it happens, in spite of us! Enjoy this time of preparation, because it only comes once a year! Happy Merry whatever! P.S. Being the restless soul I am, I plan to paint a new image every day till Christmas, so let me know if you’d like a Christmas card designed just for you.

Getting A Little Sketchy

Posted in art, How to Paint, inspiration, Painting, Watercolors with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2017 by sebland

imageI’ve always admired and been a little intimidated by those artists constantly sketching and journaling. I’ve even encouraged my students to keep a sketchbook handy and use it frequently to records events and sights along their journey. However I do confess that I could practice what I preach. When I travel or set out to do some plein aire work, I almost always will do a quick watercolor sketch, but I seldom record everyday events. I think I should. When I look back over old sketchbooks, I really get a sense of being there in the moment. In fact some of my sketches  before painting are more appealing to me than the finished work. Somehow those little sketches  along with the date and place, carry me back to a very special memory. Maybe 2018 will be the year of the “Art Journal.” We’ll see how that works out.

A Mighty Fine Day

Posted in art, How to Paint, inspiration, Painting, Pastels, PLEIN AIR PAINTING with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2017 by sebland


imageThere’s just not a whole lot to find wrong about a cool November day in Texas, in the Hill Country, beside a cool green river with the wind blowing and the trees showing off their colors. Add a good friend, a cup of coffee and some snacks, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better day. Yes, I could have stayed home and climbed Mount Laundry and the windows could use some cleaning. There are closets to be cleaned out and shopping to be done. But they’ll still be there tomorrow, and a perfect day just doesn’t come along every day! The wind was pretty strong, but the leaves waltzed in a perfect parade down the park road. A pair of geese, remarkably well mannered, seriously critiqued our work for the price of a few crackers, and the pastel dust flew away without prompting, so all in all, we were content. I’m still not well acquainted with pastels, but growing more comfortable with each study. I hope you’ll come to appreciate these good good days and learn to let go of the “woulda, coulda, shouldas.”  Grab your paints and head on out. I think you’ll live longer! By the way this little study is available at:

That Perfect Moment

Posted in art, How to Paint, inspiration, mountains, Pastels, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 16, 2017 by sebland

imageI have an artist friend who comes to visit not nearly often enough. Months, even years go by between our get togethers, but when she comes we immediately fall into a pattern of sharing ideas, supplies, techniques and interests. It’s as though we lived next door to each other. Today we sat down together, delighted with our ideas and chose pastels to play with. She shares my love for the Oregon coastline. Having been there in July, she invited me to paint from her photograph . It was a perfect  moment, just  before dark, when the moon was already up, smiling down on the sunset glow.  Not only did she capture a moment in time, I realized  our painting together was also perfect. Don’t forget to treasure those moments with your friends also.  This little painting is available at

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