Yankees and Odd Socks (Online art lesson #69)

This post is dedicated to my Mom, Marion Kennedy, who passed at ninety five this summer.  Being a good Yankee, she saved everything and taught us to think of uses for things (such as odd socks) that otherwise might get tossed.  One of the reasons that lessons have been so infrequent is that  we have been going through all of those saved things here in Vermont.   I’ll be back in CO in a few days, and the Weekly Art Lesson will hopefully become more true to it’s name.

Mom taught in primary school.  Small Elf, whom you’ll meet in the video, used to sit on a different student’s desk each day with a poem written especially for that child.

Enjoy the video!

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Insights Into Tisha Wood’s Painting Style (Online art lesson # 68)

I’ve always loved to watch Tisha Wood paint. Her moves (made with a knife) are  unpredictable and full of  surprises. Her right-brained method of working keeps me alert and delighted.

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Tisha Wood painting a bouquet in acrylic in Lillian Kennedy's studio

Tisha Wood painting a bouquet in acrylic in Lillian Kennedy’s studio CLICK to enlarge any image


The floral bouquet model for Tisha''s painting

The floral bouquet model for Tisha”s painting

Choosing a background color for a painting

Tisha begins her paintings by laying color onto the background with a knife held nearly flat.  She doesn’t use the color of the actual background.   For Tisha, colors are emotional entities that call out for relationships with other colors.

Lillian – I’ve always been mystified by how you arrive at your backgrounds. Can you describe the process that led to choosing to paint a blue background?

She began to explain that she studies the subject until she “starts to see colors”.  Here is what she said about this piece…

Tisha Wood using a palette knife to paint in acrylics

Tisha Wood using a palette knife to paint in acrylics.  This painting was done entirely with a knife.

Tisha –  All of the flowers and greenery in this vase are very airy.  This subject has  a lot of air and delicateness.

If you look at these particular flowers, they are designed by nature so that the petals are almost like pieces of thin rice paper laid on each other – almost like lace.

Everything going on here is lacy –  Even the large flowers.

Early stage of Tisha Wood's acrylic bouquet

Early stage of Tisha Wood’s acrylic bouquet (detail) Enlarge to see layering at this stage.  Think about how it got this far: the white is the white of the canvas.  The dark blue is scraped onto the canvas.  The medium and light blue were mixed and laid down revealing the vase shape.

With the structure and pastel colors of the bouquet, I wanted to work off the blues of the room, which are everywhere.   I even noticed the blues in the paint boxes.

I knew that the blues would work to set the vase strongly within the canvas and yet allow all of the very delicate work of nature in the vase to come forward.

You couldn’t do the same vase with a dark or heavy or strong background.

L- Yes, blues are in this room, but all the other colors are as well.  Would you have done it in something other than blue, if you’d been in a different mood?

detail of "Je Me Souviens" acrylic bouquet by Tisha Wood

detail of “Je Me Souviens” by Tisha Wood

T – Yes, it would have been as beautiful in some soft cream colors with a hint of caramel or brown. But it would have given the piece an entirely different feeling. It would have been heavier.

L – When it first come to you that you were going to use blue, was it an intellectual decision, a feeling tone, or something else?

T- More of an emotion. The vase itself is emotional.  The largeness and strength of the  glass vase represents, in form and stature, a presence – a strong, tall, solid presence. And the arrangement itself is quite large, some would call it an impressive arrangement, but even with the shape and the form and the size, the statement of the bouquet is delicate.

The blues would let it be the focal point, would let it have stature, but still let every individual flower be delicate.

Working a painting

T –  You can get to a point where you’re not having a relationship with the subject anymore and keep painting just to get on with it.  That creates a disrespect for the subject which I don’t like.

Je Me Souviens, acrylic floral bouquet, Tisha Wood, 20x16

Je Me Souviens, acrylic floral, Tisha Wood, 20x

(knifing light yellow onto the sprays of foliage)  It takes awhile to discover what hue I missed to take the piece where it needs to go. And then I find it. And now it’s coming together.

Completing a painting

T- I’m done.

L- What makes you think the painting is done?

T- I believe that I’ve gotten as much life out of it as possible. It’s done; I feel it, I see it. I could go into it multitudes of times but doesn’t need it. It’s breathing life right now, and I have to walk away.

A one-woman show of Tisha’s paintings opens on Sept.22, 2012 at the Villa Gaspari Ramelli in Corsica.  Tisha is currently featured in the Journal de la Corse (see excerpt below) and has been on French TV and radio.

Ses toiles chantent l’île et le Colorado. Lætitia Balesi-Wood expose à la villa Gaspari-Ramelli de Sisco. Des chevaux sauvages des grandes plaines de l’Ouest américain ou le vieux port de Bastia, un portrait de femme ou une composition paysagère imaginaire d’une puissance évocatoire si forte qu’elle est plus vraie que le réel… Ses œuvres captent l’instant de si efficace manière qu’elles nous offrent une idée d’éternité. Cette authenticité du moment emporte dans un temps qui n’est plus fragmenté ou (…)
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Staying in Touch

The wedding of Hannah and Jonathan Cohen was beautiful.  Magical.  Here they are under the wedding canopy a week ago.

wedding: Hannah and Jonathan Cohen

Four days later, with my sisters back at her side, my Mom passed away with a radiant smile.  She was 95.  She wanted to live to see the wedding photos, and she did.

Here are my Mother and Father on their wedding day.  All is as it should be in the cycle of life.  Lessons will resume once I’m back in Vermont.  xo, Lillian

wedding: Paul and Marion Kennedy

wedding: Paul and Marion Kennedy

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On Weddings and Good Paintings (Online art lesson #67)

A close association or union – A WEDDING – is crucial in painting.  How do you join disparate elements into a complete vision, a whole?

Landscape painters take sky and fields and make them one with rocks and buildings.  Trees join with clouds in a united vision.  Elements must be seen as parts of a whole – Separate but united in purpose. Painting is a process of wedding together the things that we paint.

Until the next lesson , the assignment is to think about that concept.  How many ways does it come into play?  Colors, for example… you don’t unite them by mixing them all together into one mucky color and then paint the whole canvas with that.  They must be independent but united by that mysterious union of belonging together.

Why this lesson now?  Our lovely daughter is getting married in just a few days.  I will tell you more later.  I have been crazy with the preparations, and I hope you will excuse me as the  weekly art lesson has become sporadic.  Louisville Art Association – I will do your post asap – and  you can still send me “What I learned” statements.  Perhaps your experience seems different now that some time has passed.  It was great seeing you all.  xoxo

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Quick Decisions and Focused Intentions: Jericho Plein Air Festival (Online art lesson #66)

Last Saturday 75 artists gathered at the Emile Gruppe Gallery in Jericho, Vermont. By 8:00 they had talked, eaten, caffeinated, and scattered into the nearby fields and town.  At 3:00 pm they returned to frame fresh finished paintings which were hung that evening for a show that opened the next day.*   

Knowing that work must be created, signed, and hung within a few hours will change your game plan.  This added stimulus inspires a clear focus of intention and leads to a state of flow. 

Jericho Vermont plein air festival, Lillian Kennedy, acrylic 9x12

Painting of plein air painters painting – Jericho, Vt  – acrylic 9×12 –  Lillian Kennedy     CLICK to enlarge

Warning: This is not my usual post on relaxing and bonding with nature.

7 TIPS for finishing plein air paintings in one session:

  1. There will always be distractions and other worthwhile things that you could be doing.  Even after you have saved the day in your schedule, you will need to stay clear about your focus while you are out working.  Yes, you could be photographing and getting references for future paintings.  Yes, you could be meeting those interesting people.  But you will need to focus on your painting.
  2. Don’t second guess your decisions. Ex: Once you’ve made your choice of subject / composition, stay with it.  Don’t rush, but try not to wobble.
  3. Predict the way the light will move.  You don’t need a compass.  Look up and note where the sun is.  You can tell even when it’s overcast.  You will be able to determine from the time of day and position of the sun where it will move as we all spin about in space on our lovely planet.
  4. Choose a scene that won’t be radically different when the light changes (as it will – you can’t stop that spinning – it’s not personal).  If you want to do a fleeting moment, do a little study or take a photo for later use, but for a sustained concentrated session, try to get stable light.
  5. Watch for the little changes and select the best moment to keep.  For example, in the painting above, I knew I would lose the foreground shadow so I put it in early as I wanted it have it in the piece.  As light danced on the near tree trunks, I chose the spots where I wanted it.  There was no one truth about the position of those sunlit areas so they could be choreographed.
  6. Keep sizing up the whole painting and noting what areas need work.  Don’t let magic moments go by ( I chose to put in the painters when I saw them across the field as they added so much)  BUT keep letting go of  detail and favor getting back to the weaker areas.  All detail needs to be subordinated to the whole.
  7. Match your subject to your abilities and the time allowed.  The painting of the barn was, for me, complex.  I allowed all the time I needed, but having an hour left at the end of the time, I choose the simple subject of sky, field, and distant trees.
Lillian Kennedy, acrylic 8 x 10, plein air, Jericho Vt.

8 x 10 acrylic –  Lillian Kennedy   photo: Win Grant

* The show is fantastic.  Everyone worked to their own vision and the variety is delightful.  Emile Gruppe Gallery  Jericho, VT through Aug. 12.

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Linear Perspective: Cast Shadows (Online art lesson #65)

Hold your finger up and look at it.  The side away from the light is darker.  That is a FORM shadow.  Now put your finger on a piece of white paper.  The paper is darker next to  the dark side of your finger.  That is a CAST shadow. They are handled differently in painting.  

For example, it is great to see a form shadow on a person’s nose, but if you’ve ever looked at photos or paintings with harsh shadows cast by that nose on a cheek, you’ll know that the cast shadow, in this case, breaks up the form of the face.

Trust me, it’s rarely necessary to plot out a cast shadow.  While you don’t need to calculate a  shadow when painting, understanding some of the basic principles can help you to make better shadow shapes.

In linear perspective part I we learned to draw a box in perspective.  Lets get jazzy and cast a shadow from that perspective box.  If you haven’t mastered linear perspective part I, go back to that or this lesson will be too confusing.

The principles for casting shadows are different depending on where  the light is coming from.  Side lighting from the sun, for example, must be conceived as parallel lines meaning the rays don’t converge as they do when the light is behind the object being painted.

Of course, with more complex objects, the plotting gets much more complicated .  The idea is to learn HOW TO THINK about the basics when casting shadows.

Assignment: To really get the gist of this, use an object to represent the light source, and a straight edge to represent a ray of light.  Put a box on a table and bring the straight edge from the light to the box.  You will note that where the straight edge can reach the table, there will be light.  Where it can’t, there will be shadow.  Where it touches the corners of the box (as shown with a line in the video) and then touches the table is where the shadow and light meet.

I was making diagrams for you when I found this video. Thanks to Bunnygrunts’s great explanation, I can get back to painting now and let you listen to her!

Watch the video.


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Must Have Art Books! (Online art lesson #64)

“Must have art books!” is a simple statement along the lines of “Will work for food!”

Art Books  - Charlotte, Vt book sale  weeklymart lesson

Art Books – a few of my recently acquired  treasures

Rummaging  through stacks of old books and papers, I felt like an addict needing a fix.  I was tippy and needed an art book to provide ballast and stability. I need Old Masters in order to re-affirm that, yes, beauty and harmony can be created from  chaos.

Looking at a good reproduction of a great painting can fill me with a sense of unity and harmony.  Taking that feeling back to the painting in progress can keep the piece on course.  Thank goodness the Charlotte book sale was coming up!

Sailboats have a  a big  heavy shape below the surface of the water known as a keel.   Look at the photos below and note that the keels have different shapes and sizes.  The keel on our boat weighs 2,800 lb. and it would be almost impossible to tip dear Lightwaves over.  What creates your studio keel?  Mine needs weighty art books.

sailboat in mist -  Lake Champlain, Vt - L kennedy photo

Sailboat in mist  viewed from the camp on Lake Champlain.

Sailboats and your creative life need both buoyancy and stability.  Your drawings of sailboats need both these things too.

This week, try drawing sailboats.

plein air sailboat drawing, pencil, Lillian Kennedy

plein air sailboat drawing  of Lightwaves

  •  Make your sailboats buoyant: boats float and constantly move even on a calm surface of water.
  •  Make your sailboats rooted: remember that huge shape under the water and “feel” the weight of it while you drawing of the visible parts.

What gives you that grounded feeling even while you are speeding along powered by the wind of your own inspiration?

sailboat keel, weekly art lesson, Point Bay Marina

click on any image to enlarge it

sailboat keel, weekly art lesson, Point Bay Marina

sailboat keel, weekly art lesson, Point Bay Marina

sailboat keels at Point Bay Marina

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Drawing Flowers: The Individuals in the Bouquet (Online art lesson #63)

Honoring Margaret Munt

Honoring Margaret Munt

To honor the memory of Margaret Munt  (July 3, 1954 – May 31, 2012), we’re drawing flowers this week.

flower drawing, pencil and watercolor, Lillian Kennedy

A few roadside wildflowers – pencil and watercolor Lillian Kennedy

  •  Select a few flowers almost at random.  They can be wildflowers, roadside “weeds”, or carefully cultivated varieties.
  • Admire each one from different viewpoints – above, below, front, and back.
  • Think about the process of the buds opening  and blooming.  Note the different stages if they are showing in your flowers.
  • Set your eye upon the contours (edges) and your pencil on a paper.  As your eye caresses the shapes of each petal and leaf, let your pencil follow along on the paper.
  • Heighten your awareness to the different ways the flowers grow and fulfill their mission.  Appreciate their different sizes, shapes and colors.
  • “Listen” to the flowers with your eyes to hear their individual stories.
  • Aim to draw out the unique beauty of each one.

That’s what Margaret did with the people in her life.  She divined their special potential and brought it forward.  She did this in her classroom of children and in all her relationships.  Let’s honor her memory by focusing on what is beautiful in every flower and every person.  Let’s appreciate  uniqueness and see  how differences can compliment each other and work together to make a bouquet.

flowers to draw and paint

Ira Allen Chapel was lined with bouquets brought from the gardens of Margaret’s friends and family.


flowers to draw and paint



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Between a Rock and a Wet Place: Keeping Your Art Balance (Online art lesson #62)

PleinAir Magazine’s Paint the Adirondacks Invitational – WOW!

Lillian Kennedy painting an Adirondack waterfall en plein air

Eric Rhoads and his team pulled off an event so inspirational that I will be motivated by it for months to come.

All the amazing people, paintings, and places… all the rare opportunities going on simultaneously…  How does an artist – accustomed to working alone – stay balanced?

How do you sort yourself out in a situation so stimulating?  How do you sit mid-stream with calm focus while life tumbles and flows all around you?  There will always be “reasons” that you can’t do it, but how do you concentrate on the ways that you CAN do it without getting out of balance?

The Flume waterfall, Ausable River, Adirondacks

Looking upstream towards the Flume on the Ausable River

ASSIGNMENT:  Use this photo (or your own) to paint from mid-stream.

As you sit on your imaginary rock, open your heart wide.   You don’t have that long  – so let it be  just you and nature.  It doesn’t matter now what the other painters are painting.  It doesn’t matter that the dorm sheets won’t stay on the bed because the mattress is covered in plastic.  Sit down. Forget about the dog that just scrambled onto your rock and shook it’s wet hair. Get balanced.   Now is your time!  Paint and be happy.  Keep your balance or you’ll end up downstream spitting out water.

In less than six minutes En Plein Air Waterfall Painting shows a start to finish  acrylic painting.  the video was made last year just after returning  from the first Paint the Adirondacks.   Awestruck in the Adirondacks  is a lesson on expanding your comfort zone.

en plein air landscape painting, waterfall in the adirondacks, Lillian Kennedy 9"x12" acrylic

en plein air landscape painting, waterfall in the Adirondacks, Lillian Kennedy 9″x12″ acrylic

There are plenty of rock studios out there – perhaps you’ll join us next year. Go to Publisher’s Invitational if you want to start dreaming about it. You can read about the event in the next issue of PleinAir Magazine.  Get on their mailing list!

Waterfall paintings from different areas for your enjoyment:

Sarah Yeoman painted the waterfalls below during the invitational.  Always friendly, fun, and helpful, she arrived fully equipped and even brought two kayaks for the group to use.  Check her out at:  www.sarahyeoman.com

Sarah Yeoman "Bog River Falls" watercolor on Aquaboard 9x12

Sarah Yeoman “Bog River Falls” watercolor on Aquaboard 9×12

"St.Regis Falls" watercolor on Aquaboard 14x18

Sarah Yeoman “St.Regis Falls” watercolor on Aquaboard 14×18


Sarah Yeoman - watercolor - The Flume (Adirondack waterfall)

Sarah Yeoman – watercolor – The Flume (Adirondack waterfall)

Margaret Bobb - acrylic - Alberta Falls

Margaret Bobb painted Alberta Falls (Rocky Mountain National Park) primarily with a knife in many layers of acrylic




Janette Rozene, Waterfall in Central Park, Watercolor and gouache

Janette Rozene, Waterfall in Central Park, NYC   Watercolor and gouache

Janette Rozene, Ravine Waterfall in Central Park, Watercolor and gouache

Janette Rozene, Ravine Waterfall in Central Park,NYC,  Watercolor and gouache

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Aerial Perspective – The Atmosphere That Keeps You and Your Paintings Alive (Online art lesson # 61)

Air! You can’t live without it.  It really is something, isn’t it? Take a deep breath: we are blessed to have such an atmosphere.   Your paintings need this air to breathe too!

It is not empty space between you and the distant mountains.  The Atmosphere in atmospheric / aerial perspective is a tangible thing.

View of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from Charlotte, VT, Lillian Kennedy

Click  to enlarge the view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as seen from Charlotte Vermont.  Then note how the landscape steps back into pale blues. photo: L Kennedy

Tips on seeing the atmosphere  can be found at  COLOR: Beware of Preconceptions (Online art lesson #35).

The Simplified “rules” of Aerial Perspective:

sailboats on Lake Champlain, Charlotte, Vermont ; weekly art lesson: Lillian Kennedy photo

 These sailboats  (right outside my window) use the movement of the atmosphere as they race and dance about.  Atmospheric conditions will be covered in future lessons – this week concentrate on  aerial perspective and note it here and as you go about your life.   photo: L Kennedy

*yes, you will find exceptions to these rules, but if you think you’re seeing an exception, really check it out.  Most of the time it will just appear to be an exception.

1. As colors recede they become higher in value (lighter).

2. Colors lose contrast as they move into the distance.  Light colors will become a bit darker and dark colors will become a lot lighter.

3. Colors lose intensity as they move into the background.  They are less bright; they become duller as if layers of gauze have been placed over them.  Imagine a brilliant red and what it would look like seen through layers of sheer curtains.

4. Colors move to the cool (blue) end of the spectrum as they recede. If you think you are seeing yellow in the distance, use the technique explained in COLOR: Beware of Preconceptions (Online art lesson #35) to check it out.

Posted from the shores of Lake Champlain.  Greeting to all back in Boulder,CO.

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