Archive for Art lessons

Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island

Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2014 by sebland

ME VII You’d think as time goes by, the memories would begin to fade, but coming home just seems to help me look back with fondness to the beautiful places we saw. Bar Harbor is about 90 miles south of Lubec, and we drove down to spend our last four days exploring Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island.

Bar Harbor is very busy. In fact, other than eating there and buying a few groceries, I chose to avoid it as much as possible. One exception was an excellent brunch at Two Cats Restaurant. BAR HARBOR I BAR HARBOR II With a beautiful garden as the front lawn, they served one of the most generous and delicious breakfasts I found. In fact, it was at least twenty four hours before either of us could think of food. Mostly organic food, the presentation was beautiful, and it’s easy to see why the place was packed every time we drove by. Jordan’s, a well established restaurant up the street, is famous for its blueberry pancakes and muffins. We managed to weave our way through the masses (literally) of bicycles, cars, delivery trucks and zany pedestrians several times, just to sample the food there. Our waitress, a young woman from Kiev, held us spellbound with her description of life year round on the coast of Maine. But I suppose coming from the Ukraine, a Maine winter was a breeze to her. For a flat-lander from Oklahoma now living in South Texas, thoughts of cross country skiing and wearing snowshoes to go out for a walk really sparked my imagination!

Even though we much preferred the natural beauty of Acadia National Park, we did enjoy the harbor and the old inns and hotels clustered around the bay.

BAR HARBOR III This sailboat offered a view that I enjoyed, and I would have liked to take a short cruise, maybe all the way down to Boston, if they’d offered it. A half hour ride around the bay just wasn’t that appealing.BAR HARBOR IV

Most days, we preferred driving all over the island, pulling out at every vantage point and taking photos of the cliffs, the rocks, and the beautiful blue water. One of my favorite spots was Thunder Hole.
THUNDER HOLE During high tides the water rushes into this spot, and it roars and sounds like thunder. It merely gurgled when we were there, but I still found it beautiful. I also discovered I didn’t like tourists very much, even though I was one – there was this one man who popped up in every photo. I sort of wanted to throw a rock at him, but restrained myself. They frown on such things in our national parks.


Probably my favorite time of all was sitting on the rocks near Otter Cove, pulling out my little watercolor kit and just trying to capture the shadows on Otter Cliffs. I probably will never forget that hour sitting in the sun, hearing the roar of the surf and feeling at perfect peace.



We wanted to see the lighthouse at Bass Harbor and spent a pleasant morning driving up and across the island. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of fog!

LIGHTHOUSE FOGI LIGHTHOUSE FOG II I would have loved to climb down the rocks and take photos from below, but caution prevailed. The cool, the quiet and the sound of the foghorns did leave a really nice memory.

Next, the view from Cadillac Mountain and a Happy Hour Sunset Cruise. Lots of inspirations for paintings, for sure!


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 3, 2014 by sebland

TOP OF THE WORLD ITOP OF THE WORLD IIIThe last day of our workshop dawned bright and clear. Michael took us to the overlook at Friar’s Head. It really felt like the top of the world. We could see across the bay to Lubec and Eastport, and island in between. He could not have chosen a better spot! TOP OF THE WORLD II Pointing out the lovely cloud formations, he chose as a demo to paint a pastel focusing on the fast moving clouds. He began sketching in the main shapes and worked up a value study. FRIARS HEAD I I have learned that this truly is the most valuable part of plein air painting – no pun intended.

Next, he sketched in the main shapes: FRIARS HEAD III All of us watched, enthralled, as he captured the movement of the clouds, almost as if by magic.

FRIARS HEAD V As his painting took shape, I looked around for my subject. There was plenty to choose from!


Liking the curve of the bay and the reflections on the water, I chose what should have been an easy subject, and began to lay in the masses. Michael said that it takes two people to make a painting. One is the painter and another is the friend with a gun to shoot that artist before they mess up the painting. I needed that second person on this day. I had a beautiful start and I kept on adding detail after detail until I totally messed it up.

FRIARS HEAD XIStill, it was a wonderfully beautiful day, lessons were learned and some good work was accomplished:

FRIARS HEAD VIMichael’s finished painting, Brian’s work in progress, FRIARS HEAD Xand Sue’s beautiful pastel:FRIARS HEAD IX

In such a beautiful spot, it’s easy to remember, it’s the journey!

FRIARS HEAD XII Tomorrow, goodbye to Canada.


The Sound of Fog Horns

Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by sebland

FOGGY DAY ELEVENWhen we arrived at Cranberry Point on the second day of our workshop, the fog was rolling in. I really enjoyed standing and listening to “Old Sparkplug’s” horn every ten seconds. It was a lonely, mournful sound, and I could have listened to it all day long.

However, Michael, our teacher, had other ideas.

FOGGY DAY SIX              Choosing his spot, he began again with the value thumbnail. This is a most helpful way for plein air painters to find the large masses and shapes and locate their darks and lights.

Today, Michael is using pastels, and I have to say his work and Sue’s, one of the other students, has whetted my interest. Pastels may be my next learning experience!

FOGGY DAY SEVENAfter sketching in some locating lines, Michael began to work his magic.

FOGGY DAY NINE Within an hour, he would have a beautiful piece of art. I wandered around the beach, finally settling on the perfect spot.

FOGGY DAY SEVENTEENI had decided to paint the lighthouse, “Sparky,” and watch the fog roll away.

FOGGY DAY FOURTEENI did my thumbnail, then roughed in the values and the main shapes.

FOGGY DAY FIFTEENBecause I had primed my canvasboards, the painting already has a warm glow, as if I were painting at sunset.

FOGGY DAY EIGHTEENMeanwhile, Michael has painted an alcohol wash on his pastel. He goes to warn the others who are on the beach to watch out for the incoming tide. Compare these two photos: Note where Sue is standing on the beach, working on her painting, then look at the second photo. She would have been washed away! The tide rose that fast – two hours maximum!


Content that I had a good study, I signed off on my second workshop painting.


Back in the studio, we critiqued our work. Mine is a little pink – I’ll go back and mute the colors a little. Sue’s lovely pastel and Brian’s oils all are looking good!

Brian's oilsSue's Pastel

DSCN0345 Michael’s finished pastel is really lovely – Now we know why he is the teacher!

Thank you, Michael, for inspiring us all!



DREAM IT, THEN SCHEME IT – Dreams Can Come True!

Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , on August 24, 2014 by sebland


Schoodic Point, Winter Harbor, Me.

One of the joys of growing older is the realization that if you want to do something, you’d better do it now! Sometimes this means taking some risks, facing some challenges and knowing that today is the day you should follow through on those “somedays” you have dreamed about. A little bout with cancer makes you understand tomorrow is not promised!

I will confess, when I enrolled in a plein aire painting class with Michael Chesley Johnson, that my self confidence was a little lacking. And the thought of negotiating airports, baggage, driving on strange roads and being able to hold up my end of the painting assignment itself filled me with trepidation. At 76, you don’t get many chances to do these things, so I just decided to make some memories.

The people at Southwest Airlines could not have been more helpful. They brought wheelchairs for both my husband and me, handled our baggage, and saw that we got to our car rental with absolutely no problems. When both you and your husband are worriers, that’s a major blessing! Arriving in Portland in a driving rainstorm (you Texas folks don’t know what that looks like), we headed north for a 169 mile drive to Sullivan, Maine. We arrived at sunset, and the colors over Frenchman’s Bay were amazing. Of course my camera was in the trunk. The 200 year old house and its lovely bedroom suite was warm and inviting. There was even a light on in our window! The hostess, Lee Giardino, could not have been more welcoming. It felt like going home to my grandmother’s!


It really was hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact this house was already 32 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed! And over 100 years old when Texas became a state! Lee had some interesting history of the house and made us feel completely at home, even opening her kitchen for us and inviting us to raid her pantry and refrigerator. The Keurig coffee pot was always available, and all our doubts began to disappear. This was going to be fun!

Thursday morning, we slept in and John discovered an amazing old library full of books both current and from the past. He spent the next five days hanging out with an 1884 edition of “Life on the Mississippi,” by Mark Twain, while I went all over the area just enjoying the sights and scouting out painting locations.

Sullivan is half way between Bar Harbor and Schoodic Peninsula, and Lee advised that Schoodic Point was the place to go see wave action.

Lee was right – jutting out into the Atlantic near the town of Winter Harbor, this was one of the loveliest places I have ever seen! Sitting on these rocks at 7:00 in the morning, while the shadows are long, is an artist’s dream. I did wish I had paid attention to the advice someone gave me about bug spray. The mosquitoes were so large and so numerous, they were debating whether to carry me out to sea or eat me on the rocks. Still, I managed to get a pretty good study and learned a bit about the properties of painting in oils plein aire. For one thing, you can begin to muddy your painting after a short time. I decided this was a good time to go find some bug spray. Good old Walmart came through for me, and I went back to my room tired but happy. Maybe I can feel comfortable in the workshop, after all!


I’m pretty pleased with this one. Tomorrow, I’ll try again. Thank you Lord for this beautiful day!DAY ONE SCHOODIC POINT C


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting with tags , , , on May 4, 2014 by sebland



Part of the joy of teaching is the learning that comes along with it. For the past three years, I have been moving more and more into a teaching situation. I am now realizing that while I have less time at my own easel, I have grown to appreciate the joy in seeing others become caught up in this obsession called “art!” Deciding only yesterday on a name for my classes, workshops, retreats and arts encounters, I have decided that “S. E. BLAND’S JOY OF ART SCHOOL” might be a fine title! While weekly classes are wonderful for encouraging new students, I have found that one-day workshops are great ways to show rank beginners that they too can produce good results. In October, I offered a class for beginning artists, none of whom had worked with paints before.

My deck was inviting, we had a great breakfast with blueberry pancakes, cheesy eggs, fruit salad and drinks, so that everyone was relaxed when we began. deck low resI wrapped the art supplies in gift wrapping, to make each artist aware of the gift of time they were giving to themselves.


TREAT YOURSELF LOW RESHere are some of the beautiful paintings that emerged after only a few hours of painting!

ASHLYN HENSLEE LOW RESPainted by an eleven year old girl, I was amazed at how she loved mixing colors. Her mother had to drag her away at the end of the day!

My granddaughter, Cheryl, created this calm and placid scene:the birds low res


FIELD OF WHEAT LOW RESMy son in law, who had never held a brush, created textures and colors that I would not have expected. He also, on his own, captured his favorite fishing spot.



He had been painting for a total of three hours when he started this one, and I love the movement of the water.


John’s “Red Rock Country” just blew me away. To see four people, two young women under 16, and two men over 50, create such beauty on their first try, made me realize that making art really is a joyful process, for all concerned!

My next workshop, “DANCING (AND PAINTING) TO THE MUSIC” will be coming up soon. Look for it!


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 24, 2013 by sebland


I’ve been known to tell my students that they will one day hate almost every painting they are working on. For me, this may be that day. First, my constant companion remarked that I must be emulating Georgia O’Keefe, who painted her blue mountain over and over. He said I seem to paint the same rocks over and over. He may be right, but I don’t think I needed to hear that. At least that is my excuse for a rather frustrating session. To begin, I decided the rocks were too solid and needed more texture. Mixing Burnt Sienna, Thalo Blue and Alizaron Crimson, I painted over my rocks and then scraped across them with a palette knife. I also painted their reflections and smoothed over with a bit of lavender mix.


Deciding the sky needed some more warmth, I mixed Cadmium Red Medium with a bit of Gesso and painted the sky and the water with some pink streaks. I also added a little more blue into the sky on the right.


Making a pale ivory mix with gesso and bit of Cadmium Yellow Medium, I lightened the sky and the water in the center, and at the lower right edge.


Mixing a little yellow into my pink mixture, I added more warmth to the sky and the water.


I am gradually bringing more of the water over to the left edge. I may lose the beach altogether! Maybe the tide is coming in.


With a very wet brush, some pale lavender mix and gel medium, I painted over the sand, trying to bring movement into the foreground. I also rubbed this blend over the rocks, hoping to capture the fog as it began to rise.


Adding creamy white with a large watercolor brush, I begin to build some wave action across the bottom of the rocks. I am not happy with the colors of the rocks, so struggle a bit with that. I also darken the sky with a mix of light purple made with Cadmium Red Medium and Cobalt Blue. I also add a little blue to the lower right corner.


With Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna, I play with the sand a little more, paint the rocks, rub the paint off the rocks, mutter a few imprecations and walk away. This painting can wait for another day. I hear it’s 5:00 somewhere!


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting with tags , , on July 22, 2013 by sebland

When you live in South Texas, in the summertime that cool Pacific air sounds really good. So, I crank up the a/c, turn on the ceiling fan and go back to work on this painting. With Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna, I rough in the beach in the foreground.

BUILDING THE SAND That was too easy. Next, I mix Alizaron Crimson, Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna and rough in the rocks. It helps to mix a little of that lavender paint I used in the background to soften a little.


Blending all the colors I’ve used previously, I paint the horizon lines and with a lot of water in my brush, begin to paint over the reflections I roughed in with the rocks.

ADDING TEXTURE TO THE ROCKSI like to go back and forth between the rocks and the water, adding texture to the rocks with a bit of blue mixed with burnt sienna, then a bit of the background mix to soften the reflections in the water. Noticing the horizon slants downhill, I take time to measure again and mark the horizon with a pencil line to straighten it.

WARMING IT UPI think it’s time to add some life to the sky. Mixing Cadmium Red Medium, Alizaron Crimson and Titanium White, I paint the center and left side to warm the painting a bit. I mix Cobalt blue and white and brighten the sky on the right, to add interest.


This is a little more interesting. I played with the sand a little by adding Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and white, added a few shadows to the rocks and began to wonder how will I get that glow on the wet sand that was my inspiration in the beginning. I think I see a little fog rising, but that may be my brain trying to visualize where I want to go with this. Refreshed with my little trip down memory lane, I think it’s time for a refreshing beverage. Tomorrow will be soon enough to wrestle with the next challenge. Enjoy!



DAY SIX – At the End of the Day

Posted in Painting with tags , , , , on January 25, 2013 by sebland

DAY SIX – At the End of the Day.

DAY SIX – At the End of the Day

Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 25, 2013 by sebland


My students help put things into perspective, sometimes, and that happened this week. When we were critiquing this piece, I asked my student if she felt the painting was finished. Her reply was: “Where were the birds?” I realized that to give life to this moment, I did need some little fellows walking on the beach with me. Adding the birds and their shadows took only a few minutes. I washed over the gentle waves once again with warm and cool colors already used, and realized this painting is exactly what I wanted: a memory of a soft and gentle evening, alone on the beach and admiring the amazing colors the Master Painter had provided, just for me. That’s how I feel about every sunrise and sunset – Someone created all this beauty as a gift to us. I think I’m through with this one.


I’m looking forward to next week’s painting: Depoe Bay and the Roar of the Surf.


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 22, 2013 by sebland

gentle glow day five 1 low res

Life has a way of interfering in our plans. Painting for just a few minutes a day can still yield lots of results. I advise anyone who wants to make art – don’t be discouraged when your calendar fills up! You can use a half hour, an hour, even a few minutes a day, to create a piece of art. After an incredibly busy week, I took two hours and worked on this piece. I’m really beginning to be happy with it.

gentle glow day five 3 low res

The sand looked cold to me, so to warm it up, I mixed all the colors previously used: cadmium yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, with lots of titanium white to make a warmer sand tone. I also painted over the large rock and dragged some burnt umber mixed with blue down through the dry water to make a reflection.
gentle glow day five  2 low res
Wanting to make the foreground still warmer, I painted over the sand with alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and some white. I used all my former colors and painted over the water, trying to make gentle waves and suggest the warmth of the sun on the right side of the painting.

gentle glow day five 4 low res

I felt the reflection was much too obvious, so painted over most of it with a cool blue and white mixture. I added some suggested reflections on the smaller rocks, made shadows under the driftwood and small rock in the foreground, and brought still more pink in the water on the right. It’s very hard to know when to stop, but I think this painting is almost finished. What do you think? Would you like to see the reflections more clearly, or do you like the sublety of this approach? Comments are always welcome!

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