March 20, 2016
Being a colorist at heart, I’ve always been curious in seeing raw pigments and learning about where the colors come from, be it minerals or plants, or those that are created in a lab. My watercolors are infused with color. In my workshops I show my students ways to mix and layer colors to create richer, glowing colors, rather than using color right out of the tubes. I know there are plenty of painters who use specific palettes of color, limited to a small assortment of colors to create a certain tone to their paintings. I’m a color hog, the more the merrier. I never use any browns or black, and rarely grey. I mix them or layer them using all sorts of colors to get wonderful rich colors in my paintings.
And I am curious about where pigments come from. Typically they come from plants or minerals, and sometimes animals. Imagine grinding up a lovely piece of lapis lazuli to get that specific blue in your painting! Blues are purples were most expensive, so its no surprise why they are associated with royalty. With the Industrial Revolution, color and pigments could be developed in labs, and more especially after the Scientific Revolution in the 18th C.
I just found this article on My Modern Met about a lab at Harvard that has a collection of over 2,500 pigments from around the world, and you can go see them. Its the Forbes Pigment Collection at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, part of the Harvard Art Museum. They have the pigments there to use in art conservation work, to be able to match colors of old paintings that are being maintained and preserved.
photo from My Modern Met, colors from the Forbes Pigment Collection
Seeing this article made me wistful for an art supply store I went to when I was studying printmaking in Florence way too many years ago. Its called Zecchi Colori, on via della Studio (evocative name, no?). Head a couple of blocks toward the Arno from the Santa Maria del Fiori, the Cathedral that dominates Florence’s skyline, Zecchi is on the right side of the street. The first time I went in there I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because around the perimeter of the store on the top shelf of the supplies were huge glass jars of pigments, bright, intense, glorious. I never did get a photo of them, seems ridiculous since I was so taken with them that I just never took a photo. I did by a crock, though! But I think I need to get into that lab at Harvard…
February 12, 2016
Earlier this week I got to see “Red”, the Tony-award winning play about one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko. In the first act there’s a terrific back-and-forth between Rothko and the young artist he’s hired to be his studio assistant, of different things colored red. Its a verbal panoply of all things red, and in my mind’s eye as I visualized each thing they mentioned: tomatoes, blood, lips, cherries, apple, red pepper, rose, red hair, beets, lobsters (cooked), sunsets, strawberries, pomegranates, poppies, I saw all those different versions of red: cadmium red, alizarin, vermilion, scarlet, carmine, crimson, garnet and more. All so different, and all so red. I use them a lot. Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot. In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.
Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot. In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.
Next: I was born in the Year of the Monkey, so it’s ‘my’ year according to the Chinese zodiac calendar. There have been some interesting illustrations for it online on various social media sites, but I wanted to share one with you all especially. A friend of mine, Kay, who does sumi-e, created a lovely tribute to this year here.
And finally, speaking of reds, have a lovely Valentines!
November 10, 2015
My palette in my paintings and in my scarves is typically bright colors. One of the six-week workshops I teach through the local junior college’s community education department is about how being strategic with color combinations can actually enliven colors. So I find it particularly intriguing to be developing a whole set of color ways for my scarves that are in more neutral colors. Here are two I did yesterday, pinned to the canvas-covered board while they are drying.
“Loop de Lou” design, in coffee and brown, and in grey and black.
They are pretty interesting, yes? Now, I’m a sincere coffee devotee, so the first color way was pretty much a “duh” for me. This one will look good with black, on white, on oranges, on light blue, on lavender, you get the idea. The one on the right, the grey, is a nice, cool grey, and will go with everything. Imagine it on red! And as much as these are perfect for winter colors, they’ll be perfect accents for spring and summer colors! Imagine they grey one on red!
Get my scarves online in my Etsy shop.
January 1, 2015
Recently in my Saturday watercolor workshops, I told my students that if they ever wanted to go to a local museum to see a show, or to an art supply store, that I could easily be persuaded to join them. One of my watercolor workshops students took me up on it, emailed me and made a date to go to a small, local, private museum, the Irvine Art Museum. We went last Tuesday afternoon.
This small museum is “Dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930)”. The show they have up now is of cover art from Westways Magazine, the monthly magazine of AAA. Up until 1981, Westways’ covers were all original artwork of landscapes, commissioned expressly for the magazine. These works of art for the magazine covers are as wonderful as they are varied.
Many of the artists that were engaged to do the works are known California artists, including many of the California Plein Air watercolorists: including Phil Dyke, Maynard Dixon, Maurice Logan and Rex Brandt, along with other plain air masters and illustrators. For me its always just plain fun not only seeing the actual works, but also studying each piece, working out how each artist composed their painting. And when I’m with students, talking about how the paintings were made, what the artists did to create their artwork.
For me, seeing original art is a ready-made lesson, where I get to study not only the images, and the techniques and visions of each artist. My real excitement is seeing if I can figure out how the artist painted the image, particularly with watercolors and gouaches simply because its my chosen medium. In general its fascinating to work out because in watercolors, you have to build a painting specifically due to the transparency of the paint. The more I can glean from how each artist paints, the more it feeds my own work. When I go home and paint, usually using the imagery I know, I try applying the techniques and colors I’ve just seen, and see if I can incorporate their colors, the economy of their brush strokes, and how they use dry brush over wet on wet. I sat in front of this Phil Dyke piece of Mt. San Jacinto, marveling at the broad under-painting of the shape of the mountain, and then those very few, specific brush strokes that essentially show the mountain extrusion from the ground. Wow.
Want to see some of these treasures? Just google “westways cover art“. Here’s a brief bio for Phil Dyke, too. And if you can, go see the paintings in person. There’s another one of the Grand Canyon that’s simply remarkable! Thanks for calling, Lori!
Happy New Year!
April 20, 2014
In my workshops, especially the newer students often use the word “dark” when talking about colors that are the opposite of pale. So I like to ask them, “What do you mean by dark?” This question usually gets a lot of stumped looks.
The word ‘dark’ means having little or no light, when you look it up. So it’s really not a very accurate word to use for a descriptor of deep or rich color values. So I’ve developed a list of contrasting words that I encourage my students to consider instead of the words light and dark. It opens them up a new way of thinking about how to describe colors, hopefully.
These comparisons produce a lot of different ideas about colors. Can you think of any more?
June 16, 2013
This past Friday I participated in the local chapter of the Orange County Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association‘s Visionary Women’s Luncheon. Each year they honor caregivers of those touched by Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. I was one of the artisan vendors in the Artists’ Gift Faire that was one of the features of the luncheon. This was my second year in a row participating, and I was pleased to be asked to join them again to support this organization and all the great work they do. The luncheon also features presentations, awards and a keynote speaker. This year it was to be Rita Moreno, last year it was Shirley Jones. Stars of some of my favorite musicals!
When I can, I take my ‘traveling’ silk painting equipment when I know I’ll have the space to demonstrate how the scarves are painted, alongside displaying and selling them. Its a great attention-getter in the mix of other vendors of artwork, jewelry, and other artisan/hand-made goods. And its fun to talk to people while I’m demonstrating, get their questions, and show them my process.
Detail of one of the 2 scarves I worked on that day.
This woman, in the photo below, came up to my display, and asked, “Will you help me pick out the best scarf for what I’m wearing?” After ascertaining that she likes longer scarves, I selected the four I thought would look good on her, with her lavender dress and white jacket. This is the one she decided she couldn’t live without.
As I mentioned, there’s a keynote speaker at this Luncheon, usually a star who supports the organization. Rarely do they venture out into the crowds–they usually enter and leave by a private entrance. So I don’t expect to see them, even from a distance. Well, as I was painting along, I saw suddenly someone watching me. I looked up, and it was Rita Moreno. I like to be in America! I whipped off the latex glove I that wear when I dye, and reached to shake her hand, to thank her for stopping by. She smiled, looked at all my scarves and said, “You’re very talented!”. So sweet! So what did I reply? “Thank you so much, thats so nice of you to say, and so are you!” Made my day. Songs from West Side Story ran through my head for the rest of the day. OK by me in America!
Rita and me. Ay ay ay!
May 29, 2013
In the “this moment just gets better” column!
I just received this photo via email. In my last posting about the Unique LA Show I talked about my fellow vendor who was talking on Facetime with her mum in London so Mum could choose the scarf she was going to receive for Mother’s day. Well, here she is, wearing the one she chose! From London! Via Facetime!
Doesn’t she look great!
I may be just a little goofy about this whole thing, but it was just so much fun, and startlingly cool, realizing what was happening when Lisa, the other vendor, asked if she could show the scarves on Facetime to her mum. In London. As my family would say, “Who’d’ve thunk it?”
Thanks to Lisa Bennett of Cards by Li Be for sharing her mum’s photo with me, and now you too.
I sell my scarves online in my Etsy shop Blooming Silks. And I’m happy to take orders! Delivery time is 2-3 weeks. Questions? Contact me here:
And please know that your contact information remains confidential!