Watching the Light Return (Online art lesson # 77)

Winter Rainbow, Vermont, Lillian Kennedy

Vermont Winter Rainbow

We’ve passed the Solstice – the days are getting longer now.

It is the season to celebrate the return of light.

Landscape painters study light with particular scrutiny and learn to see beauty in all the nuances.  I know you’re busy this week, but when you need to drive or walk, study the light.  Even if you just have time for a glance out the window, ask “What is uniquely beautiful about this particular light?”

If it’s gloomy where you stand, look for beauty anyhow – there may be a rainbow or light on the distant mountains.  See the subtle harmonies in the muted earth tones – they are just as much a part of this glorious life as the fruitful greens of summer.

sunlight on Adirondack mountains view from Waltham Vermont

Sunlight on the Adirondack Mountains seen from the Grant home in Waltham Vermont



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Red and Green – The Special Relationship of Complementary Colors (Online art lesson #76)

Red and Green are THE Color Couple of the season, but have you heard the gossip? They can neutralize each other in a heartbeat; that’s their little secret!  You see them snuggled up together everywhere this time of year,  and side by side each makes the other look brighter.  Mix them together, however, and  they wipe each other out.

Try these two exercises:

1.  Seeing the complementary ghost (the law of simultaneous contrast in color):

  • Take a snippet of something bright red or green  and place it in the middle of a sheet of white paper.
  • Stare at it with soft eyes for at least a minute.
  • Remove the snippet and keep staring at the middle of the white paper.
  • You should see a radiant ghost of the complement.
  • Have wild thoughts about the nature of Ying/Yang and how things are in the heart of their opposites.
complementary colors red and green make gray when mixed

complementary colors red and green make gray when mixed


2. Mixing complements

  • Mix a bit of red with a bit of green.
  • Add white to lighten the mix.  This will help you see if you are approaching a true neutral.  If your mix is  reddish, add more green.  If greenish, add more red.  If brownish – you don’t have true complements.
  • Study this sample (realizing that you may be seeing the colors differently on your monitor).   Cadmium Red is on top  and Alizarine Crimson is below.  These reds have both been mixed with Pthalo Green, which is an aggressive almost acidic green – oh, I’m really into the gossip today, but it’s from the family of Pthalocyanine Pigments, so what can you expect? Anyhow, Alizarine is also cool and aggressive, so together they make an icy gray.  Cadmium Red leans towards  Yellow and with the Pthalo creates a warmer gray.  It’s difficult to really judge neutral, but you can’t see any   red or green in the mix.  However, if you use a gray in your painting that is made from the colors in your painting, it will seem more harmonious.
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Inspiration for Your Inner Elf

How are you doing on your assignment to be one of Santa’s Elves?  Watch this video and think about the magic that can result from making things out of other things. Let me know if you shed a tear or feel inspired.  Thanks to Nyla for forwarding Landfill Harmonic to me.   Subscribers: click post title to get to home page!

Landfill Harmonic movie teaser from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.

Those Elves…you gotta love them.  Revisit Small Elf and the re-purposing  of old / odd things;Yankees and Odd Socks Small Elf and socks to re-purpise as puppets, gloves, and neck warmers

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Santa’s Elves + Beer Bottle Earrings (Online art lesson #75)

Discover YOUR INNER ELF!  Make things this year for the holidays.

Diane Cushman, Catherine Kenyon, and Lillian Kennedy making bottle cap earrings

Faux Elves: Diane Cushman, Catherine Kenyon, and Lillian Kennedy making bottle cap earrings by the fire in Vermont.

Assignment: This week invite some friends over and make holiday gifts.  Yes, you read that right – you don’t need to make a Big Deal over it: have friends over and put materials in front of them. Remember in grade school when you made cards, Kleenex flowers, hand print turkeys and all the rest – they were appreciated regardless of quality and you improved your eye-hand coordination.

Make cookies together if you want, but do consider something more Elfin.  After all, when you think Santa’s little elves cranking out the gifts, you think of them using their hands to cut, glue, hammer, and just plain MAKE THINGS…

Beer bottle cap earrings, repurposed bottle caps, recylced jewelry

Diane models her haute couture re-purposed Beer bottle cap earrings.

It’s just so fun to make things!

Inspired by Abby Sivy’s Art Spa , I invited childhood friends over a few months ago, and we had a blast making earrings from our beer bottle caps. You can talk about anything, but having “something to do with your hands” makes it more relaxing and fun.

Last week I saw Anatsui’s show at the Denver Art Museum.  This African artist found a stash of metal tops from liquor bottles.  Back in his studio, he  began to link them together.  His work is  so uniquely  beautiful, and it makes you realize that a lot more is possible in  life than we are aware of on a typical day.  Okay – he went a bit further with the materials than we did, but  Elves don’t worry about being “Great Artists” – they just concentrate on getting those gifts out!

Anatsui, African artist at the Denver Art Museum

Anatsui, African artist at the Denver Art Museum.  Double click on the image and enlarge.

Anatsui, African artist at the Denver Art Museum -Detail

Anatsui  – Detail to show technique.

Yesterday I received an unexpected gift of a handmade scarf from a new student, Gail Denton.  Knowing she made it, I want to wear it all the time. It’s included in the last photo along with some Art Spa projects such as a tea tray from a thrift store frame, a painted wine glass, a mosaic trivet, and embellished shoes.    Art Spa projects and Gail Denton's scarf

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French Sabbatical with Art Supplies (Online art lesson #74)

Bringing art supplies on an international trip is always a bit of a trick.  When Charlene Kellsey planned her research sabbatical in Arles, France, she also planned a  small and convenient  painting kit.  When she she returned to Boulder and her painting lessons, it was a treat indeed to see what she had accomplished.

Charlene Kellsey, small watercolor flower bouquet,

Charlene Kellsey painted this  watercolor (with a touch of white gouache)   in her Arles apartment.

Charlene had a tiny 12″ backpack that contained everything and weighed almost nothing.  She had a cushion for sitting on cold hard ground, rocks, or Charlene Kellsey, French Sabattical landscape small painting kitbenches. Made from a kneeling pad purchased from a garden store, Charlene cut it to fit the pack perfectly. When I saw this, I had to share the idea with you because taking stools /easels can be a drag and a pain (puns intended).  She also cut a drawing board to the shape of her little pack.  Her camera was small, waterproof, shock and dust proof, and not expensive.  This choice took away much of the worry about cameras (theft, weight / space, and damage).    Reference shots are some of the most valuable things that an artist brings home from the field (wherever the “field” might be).  As you never know when you’ll have that amazing moment wherein light and subject come together to make what could be a great painting, it’s a real advantage to have a  sturdy light weight camera always with you.

Check out this class on working with watercolor and gouache on all your travels !

Charlene Kellsey, small watercolor French landscape

Imagine a brush loaded  with paint touching  the paper with quirky twists and varying pressure leaving green marks that FEEL like real trees. Double click to enlarge Charlene’s study and take a close look at the group of four trees in the back field.

For a vicarious trip to France, check out Charlene’s blog  She includes traveling tips in with her stories.  For example: “Giverny makes a great day-trip from Paris and you don’t need a car: just go the Gare St. Lazare train station, near the Opera Garnier, and find the ticket office for the commuter trains (not the inter-city trains) and get a ticket for Vernon. The trains run about every two hours from about 8:30 a.m. and it takes about 45 minutes to get there. Special buses for Giverny meet every train and take you to the house and garden. There are plenty of places to have a nice lunch and it’s worth taking your time and spending the whole day there.”

Charlene was in Arles to do academic research on the life of the nuns in a ancient Monastery.  As she worked she started to find various references to an event involving factions of nuns, a decades long fight with the male church establishment, issues of piousness, and even the King.  Curious?  This tale from so many centuries ago is surprisingly contemporary. Charlene will soon tell us a bit about it on her blog at

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What’s in Your Painting Oasis? (Online art lesson #73)

The WeeklyArtLesson was started with the idea of making a Creative Oasis in Cyberspace… a space that you could click into and feel that your art process was nurtured and supported.  In this holiday of giving thanks, I thank you all for dropping in and making that space come alive.

Cyberspace alone isn’t enough however, we also need a  tangible space to use for our creative projects.  What’s in your ideal studio?  Maybe your “studio” is your kitchen table for a few hours a week. Can you make some little change to make it more effective for yourself?  Share your ideas in the comments section.

painting classes and lessons Boulder CO, Lillian Kennedy

Assignment:  For the next month, give thanks every time you enter your studio, no matter what might be lacking from your ideal.  Really appreciate that you have any amount of time, space, and energy to create.

New art classes and painting workshops: 

 plein air watercolor first painting in 25 years, Lillian Kennedy art classes

New student Mary Ann shows the plein air watercolor that she painted today in the studio garden.  She is finally back to painting after 25 years!  We both feel blessed to be working together.

Painter’s Sanctuary: Tuesdays $15. 1-4:30  

No instruction – just come and be buoyed by the presence of other working artists. A place and time set aside for you to focus on your art in a  supportive environment.

I work right along with everyone else, and already not a day goes by that I don’t think about next week’s Oasis with happy anticipation.  If you live in the Boulder, CO area, I invite you to check out the Oasis description to see if it would work for you.

Now registering for winter workshops:

Yes, You Can!  Beginning Acrylics: Jan. 19/2013 10-4  $75  ($95 with all materials supplied)  Leave with a finished painting after learning the stages of painting and different acrylic techniques.

Sunflowers in Winter: Jan. 26/2013  10-4  $75 ($95 with all materials included)  Learn about painting sunflowers with the exercises and leave with a finished acrylic painting.

Painting Silk Scarves: Feb.2 /2013 10-4  $95 includes all materials.  Paint your own beautiful silk scarf in time for Valentine’s day!

Best Skies Ever: Feb. 23 /2013  10-4  10-4  $85 includes all materials.  Learn to paint incredible skies.

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How to Draw a Tree: a peek at the process (Online art lesson #72)

Tree drawing is akin to tree hugging, but you get graphite, not bark, under your fingernails.  When drawing trees, you get to visually hug way up to the crown  and out to the ends of the smallest twigs.

This video was made at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia last week.  The model is the Wisdom Tree (so named by the Marines, not me!), an old willow oak at the edge of the Potomac River.  It’s difficult to see the pencil lines in the uploaded video, but I think you can still learn much about the process of how to draw a tree with the “move around and stay fluid” method.

The assignment is to draw a tree.  In this season, you will be able to focus on structure.

Please let me know how you like it.  Subscribers – remember to double click the post title to see the video.

 How to draw a tree, Lillian Kennedy -  tree drawing (

“The Wisdom Tree” at Quantico Marine Base.  8 x11 pencil drawing by  Lillian Kennedy

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Get a Free Copy of “The Painter’s Keys” by Robert Genn Mailed to You!

FREE BOOK! During the month of November 2012 we’re (that would be the people at R Genn’s place  – NOT the WeeklyArtLesson) mailing a free copy of The Painter’s Keys–A Seminar with Robert Genn to subscribers who copy Twice-Weekly Letter material to their sites, publications or blogs, give credit and link to us. Yep, the book’s free. No kidding. The first hundred will receive an autographed copy. All you need to do is use the material of your choice, link to us, and then send us your mailing address. We’ll do the rest.

I’m a big fan of Robert Genn.  He writes with intelligence and wit and it’s a pleasure to get his yummy nuggets delivered to my email inbox.  Subscribing is free, and, as with the WeeklyArtLesson, subscribing doesn’t obligate you for anything – don’t even open the emails (right away) if you’re busy.

When I saw this notice of the free books, I rushed to share it with you.  Click around while you’re at the site because there is a lot more going on than just the Newsletter .



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Goal Worksheet: Aid in Focusing Your Creative Project (Online art lessons # 71)

Let’s settle down and talk about your goals and how to make achieving them easier.   If the idea of a work-sheet makes you cringe, take a look at the first sample.  You could handle that, yes?  If you liked to play the Curious George game, you’d be motivated by this highly visual goal sheet.  The fun of pressing down a smiley faced sticker would motivate me to “Sit nicely at Circle Time”! 

 What are the basic elements that make goal setting effective?

goal worksheet  goal sheet for creative types

Double click and print from the enlarged image.  Fill it out and make your project HAPPEN!  Share your experiences in the comments section.



1. You need to be specific!  You can’t think that wishing you could paint a masterpiece is a goal.  An example of specific: “Publish a blog post on Goal Worksheets before noon.”

2. Include a deadline.  Otherwise, you can put it off forever.  Deadlines give you the adrenaline rush needed to push through blocks.  Think of goal setting as a game you are playing with yourself – if the goal is right, it will become a game you very much want (and expect) to win.

3. Be realistic.  If it is too hard, you’ll give up and be discouraged about setting future goals.  You can always ramp it up a notch for the next goal.  Getting the painting you’re working on in the Metropolitan Museum by December isn’t realistic (unless you are going to carry it in under your coat and walk around with it for a few hours just to technically meet the goal) . Realistic goals: “I will finish this piece and show it to six different people by Dec. 15” or “By the end of the month I will have finished and framed this painting”  or “Sit quietly at Circle Time”.

TIP:  If the goal you are thinking about is big, once you break it into sub-goals, you can give each of the sub-goals it’s own worksheet.

Once you have those three elements, it helps to have a process that you can go through to sort out issues that might come up. The steps I take are in the GOALS worksheet that you can print and use.  Better yet, make your own goal sheet and tailor it to your specific needs.  I made this one decades ago and still use it.  I’d like to redesign it, but that’s not a goal as it doesn’t have a deadline.

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Painting from Your Computer at Your Office Desk: 7 Tips to making it Easier and More Effective (Online art lesson #70)

tips: painting from computer monitor, Lillian Kennedy, art lesson

Painting from a laptop screen – Give it a try – and let me know how it goes.

Your office desk can double as a mini studio without upsetting the paperwork flow if you follow a few simple precautions.

1. Put your paperwork away first.

2. Work small.  For a suggested mini kit watch this video.

3.  Protect your computer from possible spills by keeping it elevated so that it is  NOT on the same level as your liquid thinners !

4. Even if you’re using a laptop, plug in a mouse so that you don’t get paint on your computer by mistake.   Keep the mouse where it’s easy to reach for refreshing the screen and adjusting the image.

5.  You can enlarge the image by degrees in most programs.  Therefore with a touch of the mouse, you will be able to enlarge any area that you want and see lots of detail if you need it.

6. Enlarge an area until your image pixilates.   You can study the colors abstractly in the separate tiles.  This will give you lots of ideas.

7.  Use your photo program as you paint.  The saturation bar will enhance colors. Turn your reference to black and white so that you can really study the values.  Try all the other options to refresh your sense of the original image.



Posted in Acrylic Painting Classes and Workshops, acrylic paintings, Creative Process, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments