Thursday, April 27, 2017

Four Bridges Art Festival, Chattanooga, TN, April 21-23, 2017

This year I was fortunate enough to jury into the 4 Bridges Art Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the stunningly gorgeous Lookout Valley.  The show, held at the First Tennessee Pavilion, started with an evening Preview opening on Friday, April 21, 2017 and continued all day Saturday, April 22, and Sunday, April 22, 2017.  

This picture is from the evening preview where they had tables loaded with all kinds of flavors of chocolate truffles with names like "Bittersweet", "Champagne", "Brie de Pear".  You can see by the empty trays near the end of the evening that the truffles were very popular.
Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served to the happy, lively crowd. Lots of fabulous art and artists. 
A jazz/blues musician played to the crowd and one couple decided to swing dance to the music.
Luckily, we were under cover in the First Tennessee Pavilion because steady rain and chilly wind gusts would have completely washed out the show if we had been outside.  The key word for Sunday was "monsoon".  You can see in this photo above, taken at 3 p.m. Saturday, that the only people in the aisles were artists playing on their devices.  

Even so, there were a few serious collectors who turned out for the show.  This was my first time exhibiting but others, both artists and patrons, told me that usually the venue is shoulder to shoulder with the crowd jostled along where it can be hard to see the art.  One buyer was thrilled that there were fewer people in attendance and she could actually see the artwork.

All and all, a lovely show with friendly, gracious people.   Chattanooga is a small city on the move with many people I talked to having only arrived in the last year or two.  Many credit the new Tennessee Aquarium built 10-12 years ago with revitalizing and turning the city around.  

Thanks for following along.

Happy Trails!



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

041017 S 24x30 Morning Glories, Hollyhocks, and Poppies by the Creek, PART THREE

This is PART THREE of a three part blog about the creations for a recent commission project.  This is the second of two paintings I created for the projectYou can see the design process in the PART ONE blog. You can see the first painting HERE in PART TWO 

To summarize, Beth and Andy wanted a flower scene with lots of purple:  blue-purples, red-violets, blues.  The water needed to be a darker cobalt blue, not a turquoise or cerulean blue.  They liked certain elements in various paintings that they saw in my studio/gallery during a visit.  So I took notes and then pulled out the paintings and/or printouts of what they liked.  

I started with a sketch that includes writing out what I what where and what colors and flowers I want to emphasize.

Then I sketch out the idea on a prepared panel using a brush dipped in cold pressed linseed oil and magenta mixed with cerulean blue pigment.  

I mix up a dark value using Cadmium Red Medium and Ultramarine Blue and use that on the edges of the creek.  I mix up a dark green for the background trees using Ultra Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, and a touch of Cad. Red Med. and/or Primary Red-Magenta.  

I use Ultramarine Blue with a touch of Titanium White for the water in the creek. I also add in some dark, rusty ochers in the water where the earth and rocks underneath color the water. I start painting in the morning glories with dark purples mixed from various combinations of Ultra. Blue or Cerulean Blue with Magenta gradually adding lighter values mixed with white. 

The green foliage in the middle ground space is mixed using primarily Cerulean Blue(a warmer blue than Ultramarine) and Cadmium Yellow Light.  More blue is used in the background greens to help the space recede.  Magenta and Cadmium Red are also mixed in sparingly for shadows and dips in the topography.

More dark background foliage in the trees is added.  Leaves are added to the Morning Glories.

The sky, mixed with Cerulean Blue and Titanium White, is popped in the negative space around the trees.

Bright zinnias are added to the background, dancing across the trees.  The zinnias are mixed from various combinations of magenta, cadmium red, yellow, and blue.  Bright poppies from pure Cadmium Red Medium and Light are added to their complementary color, green.  Using complementary colors next to each other cause them to vibrate optically and create visual excitement.

More flowers are added throughout the painting.  A pale violet color is mixed using lots white with purple.  Yellow is used sparingly.  Hollyhocks are painted in.  Goldfish are added to the creek and a waterfall is painted in.  Final details are added to the foreground flowers.  And the final painting(below):

"Morning Glories, Hollyhocks, and Poppies by the Creek", Code #031017 24x30, oil on panel, 24" x 30", c. 2017, by Charlene Marsh. SOLD

And so which painting did Andy and Beth select?  While they loved both paintings, they selected this one, the second one!  I thought they might because it made the purples and blue-purples the stars of the painting more than the first one(which is fabulous in it's own right).

You can see the design process in PART ONE and the creation of the first painting in PART TWO.  

Thanks for following along.

Happy Trails!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

040717 S 24x30 Happy Dancing Flowers, PART TWO

This is PART TWO of a three part blog about the creation of a commissioned oil painting for a couple for their bedroom and shows the creation of the first of two paintings created for them to choose from.  Please visit PART ONE to see the evolution of the foundation of the project and PART THREE to see the second painting created and find out which one Andy and Beth selected. 

Beth and Andy visited the studio/gallery and looked over the paintings I had in stock.  We discussed what they liked and the size of the space.  In particular, Beth loves purple.  Blue-purple is her favorite.  This was a fun challenge to integrate what they liked -- the colors, the waterfall, the flowers -- into a painting to fit their space.

After making some sketches, I started with a drawing on the panel using cold pressed linseed oil and a bit of pigment.

I mix the darkest values using Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red Medium.  I put in the dark values wherever I see them on the painting.

For the darker, background trees, I mixed Ultra Blue with a small amount of Cadmium Yellow Light.  I mix up a small batch of color and apply it throughout.  Then i mix up another small batch of color and use that until it is gone.  Some batches I mix in more yellow, some more blue.  Some, I add Cerulean Blue and/or a touch of Titanium White to get a lighter value.

For the brighter greens in the foreground space, I mix up small batches of green the same way but, instead of Ultramarine Blue, use a warmer Cerulean Blue with Cadmium Yellow in varying ratios.  I also would add a touch of Cadmium Red Medium and Primary Red-Magenta to tone it down.

I blocked in the water on the creek using Ultramarine Blue since my clients liked the cobalt color more than a turquoise color.  I also worked in some of the earth tones from the land mixed from predominately Cadmium Red Medium with Ultra Blue and Cadmium Yellow.

Next, I mixed a light blue for the sky using both Ultramarine Blue and Cerulean Blue plus Titanium White and blocked in the sky in the negative space around the trees.  

I then scratched into the surface all over with a rubber tipped implement to create the branches and twigs and sense of movement.

Finally, time to start adding the flowers!  I start with the hollyhocks in the background using various mixes of magenta with a touch of yellow, magenta and white, magenta and ultra blue, magenta and cerulean blue.

More flowers are painted in.  The waterfall in the creek is painted in.  Goldfish are added and then ripples swept over them.  I even go back and add some dark green from the background when I think there may be too many flowers. 

The surface of the painting is alive with the flowers pulsating across the landscape.  Hollyhocks, magic lilies, marigolds, poppies, Queen Anne's Lace are all dancing across the painting.  

The finished painting.  "Happy Dancing Flowers", Code #040717 S 24x30, oil on panel, 24" x 30", c. 2017 by Charlene Marsh.

I ended up painting a second piece to give Beth and Andy a choice.  I also wanted to better integrate what they wanted with the emphasis on purples and violets and blues.  Although I absolutely love the vibrancy and excitement of this painting, I felt like maybe it didn't have enough purple to really meet their expectations.  Also, I just feel better giving clients a choice and then I can add the second piece back into my inventory.  Win win for everyone!  

PART THREE of this blog features the creation of the second painting.  I'll let you know at the end of that blog which painting Andy and Beth selected.  
Thanks for following along! 

Happy Trails!


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Monday, April 17, 2017

032417 Commission Project, PART ONE

This is PART ONE of a three part blog about a recent commission project.  PART ONE discusses the evolution and inspiration of the project.  PART TWO covers how the first oil painting was created and PART THREE shows the creation of the second painting.  My clients were then shown both paintings and given a choice of their favorite between the two paintings.  I'll let you know which one they selected in PART THREE so stay tuned.

While visiting the studio/gallery, Andy and Beth looked through the paintings I had in my inventory and picked out various ones they liked.  But they needed a specific size for their bedroom and nothing I had on hand fit what they wanted.  I told them I could paint a painting as a commission project and take into consideration and incorporate exactly what they wanted.

"Poppies and Hollyhocks by the Creek", Code #032416 24x36, oil on panel, 24" x 36", c. 2016 by Charlene Marsh 

Beth really loves purples.  All kinds of purple!  Especially blue-purple.  But she also loves red-violets and blues.  She wanted a flower painting with these colors highlighted.  Pinks and magentas were fine, too.

Beth not only loved the flowers in this painting(above) but the waterfall in it so we wanted to incorporate a waterfall in the final painting for their home.

"Zinnias, Marigolds, & Mums by the Goldfish Pool", Code #091116 12x16, plein air oil on panel, 12" x 16", c. 2016 by Charlene Marsh 

She loved the dark water in the goldfish pool(above) as well as the color of the flowers and the habenero hot pepper plant on the right side although purples had to predominate.

"Lilies by the Goldfish Pool with Glass Bird Bath", Code #070214 12x16, plein air oil on panel, 12" x 16", c. 2014 by Charlene Marsh 

Beth liked the very pale yellow flowers in the lower left of the painting (above) as well as a few poppies.

"Morning Glories", Code #081215 12x12, plein air oil on panel, 12" x 12", c. 2015 by Charlene Marsh  SOLD

After they left the studio, I looked through printouts of past, sold paintings and pulled a few other images that I thought met their criteria and would be good inspiration.  The blue and blue-purple morning glories (above) would be perfect for the painting.  
"Purple Ironweed", Code #082316 9x12 no2, plein air oil on panel, 12" x 16", c. 2016 by Charlene Marsh  SOLD

All this purple ironweed(above) definitely fit the bill! 

"Magic Lilies and Hollyhocks", Code #112415 12x12, oil on panel, 12" x 12", c. 2015 by Charlene Marsh  SOLD

I love the Magic Lilies and Hollyhocks in this painting(above) especially vibrating against the green foliage.

So I arranged a couple original paintings to the left of my easel and made a bulletin board of six printouts of past paintings to use for inspiration and reference while working on the commission piece.  You can see the set up in my studio in the photo above.  My palette is on the right side with extra palette knives, paint, and paper towels on the left.

So, with a firm foundation of what my clients want and what direction I want to take the painting, I am ready to get started.  

Please visit PART TWO to see how the first painting in this project was createdPART THREE with the second painting is now up and you can see which painting Andy and Beth selected.

Thanks for following along!

Happy Trails!



Thursday, April 13, 2017

041217 12x16 Plein air spring

Such a gorgeous, perfect day!  Seventy degrees, sunny, low humidity!  In short, the best day ever!  I loaded up my EasyL pochade and Kelty backpack and headed out to the woods.  I walked one mile out a ridge and then dropped down to the creek, hiking another mile back up the creek.  I stopped at this spot to paint.
Only takes a few minutes to get set up.  I have to attach the pochade to the tripod and get out the panel and knives.  I discovered I only had one paper towel so had to make it last!  I had pre-loaded my palette with oils before leaving home.  Having to carry tubes of paint adds too much weight to the backpack.
I started with a quick sketch of pigment picked up with a brush dipped in cold pressed linseed oil.  Then started to paint in the shadows and crevices of the rocks. 
With spring, the colors are changing rapidly.  Spring greens are pushing through the "march mauves" of the decaying leaves creating a shimmering color.  I struggle to capture the beauty.  This is my first plein air painting of spring in the forest and I am a bit disconnected from mixing the right colors to convey the magic.  The creek is an ocher green with turquoise and cerulean highlights.  I usually use a mix of complementary purples and red-violets and bright spring yellow-greens but that combo didn't really seem to fit what I was seeing. 
Here is a shot further back from the painting with my dog, Kendra, ensconced on her bed of leaves.  Although you can't really see them in my photos, the forest floor is covered in wildflowers:  wild phlox, purple and yellow violets, spring beauties, trout lilies, Dutchman britches,  mother-in-laws tongue, and more!
Here's another long shot as I am near finishing the painting.  I added some of the wild, purple phlox to the painting before wrapping up. 
This shot was taken right before I packed up my gear and the painting and headed home.  I usually pack an extra jacket but didn't this time and it was getting a bit chilly as the sun went down.  I was ready to get moving and warm up.
"Spring in the Forest, April 12, 2017", plein air oil painting, 12" X 16", c. 2017 by Charlene Marsh

Thanks for following along!

Happy Trails!



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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ten Reasons to Ditch the Brush and Switch to Palette Knives

Ever thought of trying the palette knife but didn't know where to start?  


One of my fans emailed me with some questions about palette knives.  He wrote:

I am fairly new to painting and am experimenting at this point.  I have a limited budget and wish to explore the use of the palette knife.  Are there a couple of specific types or dimensions/styles of knifes (sic) you recommend that I begin with?

Perhaps, if you have not yet in prior blogs, consider expanding this kind of explanation in one blog post?  That is, why you prefer a knife over a brush when a certain type of opportunity is presented.  What at the advantages you have found over the years? 


Good questions!  Thanks for asking.  I bet other people have the same questions. 

I started out painting with brushes like a normal painter and used them for many years.  It wasn't until I started backpacking out into the forest to paint on location "en plein air" that I started using the palette knife.  Not quite sure what prompted the first time use except, perhaps, a sense of exploration and experimentation.  

Lighten the load while embracing impasto! 

I also wanted to ditch the painting medium in order to lighten the load in my backpack.  About the same time, I wanted to create a heavy, impasto surface that better conveyed the raw, wild energy of the forest.   When I had to use medium to mix the colors of the paint, it thinned it down too much to create the impasto effect I wanted.  So I had two reasons to dump the medium and turps:  lighten the weight in my backpack and get the heavy impasto effect in my paintings.. 

I ended up switching to a different brand of paint with the perfect viscosity to mix with the knives and without the medium.  That was all about 15 years ago so I don't remember which came first, the chicken or the egg, but it all coalesced about the same time.  

I love the palette knife so much, I use it 99% of the time.  Sometimes I pick up brushes again but end up back with the knives in short order.  Now, the brushes feel like I am painting with a mop!  Ha! I included a #8 Flat brush in the photo because I do still use a brush to sketch out the initial drawing for the painting.  I use a smaller brush on smaller paintings. 

And, so, here are ten reasons to ditch the brushes and pick up the palette knife.


1.  One or two knives can replace a handful of brushes plus medium and turps and lighten the load when painting on location. 
2.  The knives are super easy to clean unlike brushes.  All you have to do is wipe the blade with a paper towel.  If paint dries on the knife, clean it with steel wool.
3.  Mixing colors with the knives is a breeze.  Mixing up small or large batches of color at a time is easy as pie.  The artist is able to mix real clean colors and avoid turning them to mud.  Keeping your colors fresh, crisp, and clean is easy because of Reason #2.  Just wipe the blade before picking up a new color or value.
 4.  Ability to create a heavy impasto texture with the knife.
 5.  Ability to create a wide variety of marks with the knife from scratches to organic swathes to quick dashes.
6.  With a wide assortment of sizes and shapes to choose from The possibilities are endless.
 7.  Switch easily from a dark value to a light value, or vice versa.  With one wipe of the paper towel, pick up a fresh color, value, or tint and you are off and running again.  No worries that your dark value will go light or, worse, turn into mud.  No messy turps or handful of brushes for each color and value to deal with.
 8.  Great for use on a hard panel.  This is where the rubber meets the road and I find the steel palette knife works great on panels!  Like frosting a cake. 
 9.  Palette knives last darn near forever.  Just don't use them to pry open a paint can or screw in a bolt.  You can bend or warp the blade.  Yes, head hanging down, I screwed up one of my blades using it for something it wasn't intended.
10.  Loosen up your paintings with palette knives!  Palette knives force the painter to distill out unimportant details and focus on the big picture.  The result is often a painting that is more "alive" and that captures the essence of the subject in an exhilarating way.

 Everything but the kitchen sink!


Yep, I bought every single palette knife in the universe that I could find.  Big, small, skinny, fat, square, round, diamond, oval, triangular, pointy tip, rounded tip. You name it, I bought it. 

I bought every brand I could find on the planet, too:  Creative Mark, Grumbacher, Liquitex, Frederix, Tara.  Tara doesn't make anything except canvases anymore and Creative Mark has by far the largest selection of palette knives to experiment with.  I ended up buying thirty different knives to find my favorites.

 But you don't need to do that!  Unless you want to, of course. 

In the end, my very favorite is.....drum roll...the T3 by Creative Mark. This knife is numero uno in my book.  I have five or six of these and even though they are the same size and shape, each one "feels" different.  The "spring" of the blade, how the paint feels when being applied to the support, and how comfortable the handle feels in my hand make even one or two knives of the same style my ultimate favorite.  The smaller knife (above) is a good one for smaller marks and details but the number has long since been buried in paint so I can't tell you what it is.  There are plenty to choose from so just pick what you like.

Course, every artist has to try the knives for themselves and see what they like best.  What works for your style and taste?  How comfortable does the knife feel in your hand?  And how does it feel when applying the paint?  Does it have the right "spring" for you?   

Gotta start somewhere! 

I don't think you can go wrong if you start with the T3 by Creative Mark.  I have done very intimate, delicate work with it as well as large marks and large paintings.  The T3 is my "go-to" knife.  You can easily find this palette knife and others at your local arts supply store or at online suppliers.    

Thanks so much for your questions.  Please ask away and I will see what I can do to answer in a future blog.  I love hearing from you so either leave a comment/question on this blog, send me an email, or give me a call.  Yeah, I mean the old fashioned telephone and, yeah, I still have an old fashioned landline

Thanks for following along.

Happy Trails!