Archive for December, 2010

Sunny Memories

December 31, 2010

Today is Planting Day! The first task is to put in the grape vines on the trellis. The twisting tendrils of the vines and the hanging clusters of grapes are fun to do. Next is the Lavender with that wonderful scent. The flowers are painted first, then I come back in and paint the greenery. I work around the purple of the blossoms so their color remains crisp and clean.

Petunias have been potted in the ceramic container Nicky is sitting next to. Ultramarine Blue + White was used for the blue ceramic. I originally had a square pot in the sketch taped to my easel above the painting. You can see it better by enlarging the image, just click on the picture. After getting the piece drawn up on the canvas I realized there were just too many straight, up and down lines with the distant cypress trees, wall, building and trellis. Rounding the pot gives the painting a better feel.

The colors for Nicky are mixed and ready to go. The sienna colors are a mixture of MUD (Ultramarine Blue + Alizarin Crimson) + Cadmium Orange + White. The green for his eyes is some of the distant vineyard color lighted a bit with White.

Nicky is now perched in his sunny spot above the poppies. Notice the blue along the side of his head and back, reflected from the blue container. In the early process of putting Bonnie’s ideas together in a sketch I had thought of having Nicky looking off into the distance. Then Bonnie mentioned the painting was to hang in her kitchen. At that moment I knew I had to turn his head so he could keep an eye on her as she puttered around. I’m using the corner of a large brush to block in the poppy blossoms, letting them dance in the Tuscan sunlight.

Sunny Memories    20″ x 24″    Original Oil Painting

The Poppies are finished and the final touch was the yellow blooms on the hanging vine. The Pink, Red and Yellow  flowers provide bright warm hues that jump forward. The soft, cool greens and blues of the vineyards and mountains now fall way back into the distance. The painting is ready to bring my collector many Sunny Memories of Tuscany and her favorite kitty. Thank you for visiting the studio and watching  me paint. Jack and I hope all of you have a very safe and happy New Year’s Eve. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik


Distant Vineyards

December 30, 2010

The rolling hills of Tuscany are covered with vineyards. I want the distant fields to be sunlit, the farthest one the lightest. The closest vineyard, not yet painted, will be in shadow which will provide a dark backdrop for the bright red poppies across the foreground. I keep the greens cool but add a touch of Hansa Lemon Yellow to the colors used on the mountain to warm them just a bit.

Using the darker adobe colors from the hilltop village I paint the ground for the closest vineyard. The vines are worked into the wet paint.

Above is an example of another technique that gives depth to a painting, Perspective. The perspective of the rows of vines direct the viewer’s gaze into the distance. The rows on each vineyard get smaller as they recede, making them appear farther away.

We’re ready to begin on the rock building and wall. Using mixtures of varying proportions of Ultramarine Blue + Cadmium Orange + White for the structures. Some dabs bluer, some warmer with more Cadmium Orange. A little MUD (Ultramarine Blue + Alizarin Crimson) is used in the darkest mixtures.

The bluer mixes are used for the building behind the trellis. The warmer mixtures are used on the front wall, washed by the sun. Please notice, the far edge of the wall is bluer while the closer portion of the wall, under the kitty, is warmer and lighter.

When painting I begin with the landscape, construct the structures and then plant the foliage. The rock building and wall are built and the trellis for the vine is finished. Tomorrow we can begin planting to provide a lush, happy place for Nicky to sit. See you then. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

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Hilltop Village

December 29, 2010

The next step forward is the mountain with the typical Tuscany hilltop village. I’ve mixed several different shades of cool green using varying amounts of Pthalo Blue + Cadmium Orange + White. More Pthalo Blue in the mix makes the color cooler, see the three dabs on the far right.  More Cadmium Orange makes it warmer as seen in the center three dabs of paint. The adobe colors are for the buildings in the village. These were also mixed with a touch of Pthalo Blue + Cadmium Orange + White. A little MUD (Ultramarine Blue + Alizarin Crimson) was added in the darkest mixture. It is amazing how mixing the same three colors in different proportions results in such a wide range of hue. The small dabs of color on the far left are from the sky, left over from yesterday.

I’ve begun blocking in the mountain the village is located on. The distant, bluer mountain is already beginning to recede. Notice also the top edge of the far mountain is made softer. Here is another helpful rule in painting: Soft Edges Fall Back, Sharp Edges Jump Forward. This is a technique you can use to give distance to your painting. By softening the edge of the distant mountain it draws less attention. The harder edge of the mountain I’m painting comes forward.

Using the corner of a “bright” brush I plant an olive grove on the hillside.

The same brush is used to block in the village. The darker values are painted first, then I come back and add the highlights where the sunlight catches the ancient rock buildings.

The last step to complete the village is adding the terra cotta roofs and the tower on the church. Driving through the Tuscan countryside there always seems to be one of these quaint villages in the distance. To me they exemplify the essence of Tuscany. See you tomorrow. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

Now, On To Tuscany!

December 28, 2010

My client has been so understanding and patient. When she ordered this commission several months ago she said, “This is my Christmas present to me, so there’s no need to rush. You don’t have to have it for Christmas. Go ahead and do the paintings that have to be done for December 25.” Well, all of the surprise pieces are done and shipped. Now, on to Tuscany! I’ve been so looking forward to doing this painting. Bonnie has fond memories of the poppy fields, hillside villages and vineyards of  Tuscany. She also wanted to somehow include her favorite cat, Nicky, who sadly is not with her anymore.

Bonnie wanted to capture many of the touches of the Tuscan landscape in her painting. She also wanted the corner of an ancient rock building or wall. This has been a lot of fun to work all of her requests into the piece. The sketch met with her approval, I’ve just been waiting to finish up my other commissions to get started. This morning I got to work drawing it up. After all the elements were sketched on the canvas I heard a sound at the window by my easel. Guess who was peering in? I imagine Slinky came to investigate the “cat on the canvas”!

The sky is the starting point for any landscape painting I do. This is where the light comes from, setting the tone for the entire piece. Also it’s the farthest back. In painting landscapes I work forward from the most distant point. My colors for the sky are mixed and laid out on my palette above. From left to right the mixtures are: MUD (Ultramarine Blue + Alizarin Crimson) + Cadmium Red Light + White, MUD + White, Cadmium Orange + the littlest touch of Ultramarine Blue + White, Pthalo Blue + White, and Ultramarine Blue + White. All of the mixes have a tiny bit of the color and a LOT of White.

The blues in the sky are painted first. The lighter, Pthalo Blue mix is used closer to the horizon while the Ultramarine Blue mixture is nearer the top of the canvas. If you will study the sky on a sunny day it gets darker as it curves overhead. Nearest to the horizon the sky is lighter and more blue-green. The clouds are painted next, working wet-into-wet allows me to keep the edges soft. This softness makes the sky drop back. Working forward the most distant mountain is next. Those of you who read my blog regularly probably know this by heart: Cool Colors Recede, Warm Colors Come to the Front. In order to keep the farthest mountain in the background I make it bluer. Do come back tomorrow and watch as the landscape progresses.  Oh, if you would like see any of these images larger just click on the picture. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

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One Fine Easel

December 27, 2010

I was asked a very good question the other day, “What kind of easel do I use to paint on?” They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here are several! We use the BEST Classic Santa Fe II Easel. When Jack and I were traveling, living in places where people take vacations, we would make easels out of 2×4 lumber. They were very portable and didn’t take up much room tied on top of our Ford Explorer. With the exception of tax records, which we had in storage, everything we had fit in or on top of the SUV. So space was at a premium.

When we began to settle down we decided to purchase “Real” easels. After a lot of research this is the one we picked. The best is made by “Best”! It has a crank that allows the artist to raise and lower a painting without having to take it off the easel.

In the picture above I’m working on a 6′ x 8′ painting. My canvas can be cranked up even higher to work on the lower portions. This prevents having to reach up to paint, which puts a lot of excess strain on your shoulder and rotator cuff. My palette is on a base with wheels. I just rolled it to the side so I could stand up close to the painting.

The easel comes with an extra canvas holder that can be attached to place smaller canvases on. You just slide it over the uprights and tighten the black knob on the right side. The easel can be purchased at most online art supply companies. has the most reasonable prices we could find. But shop around, this easel is well worth the investment. We’ve had ours since 2001 and love them. My palette is back in its usual place in front of the easel. This is the most efficient way to work. You don’t have to twist and turn to get your paint like you would if it were on the side.

Oh, Jack said to tell you. The easel does not come with the “Hey Cupcake” sign. (You can see it by enlarging the images, just click the picture.) The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason is one of our favorite TV series. We have DVDs with all the episodes. We watch them at lunch for a “Laugh Break”. Anyway, when Ralph wants something from Alice he will sweet talk, using pet names like “Sweetums” and “Cupcake”. On Valentine’s Day two years ago he saw the headline in the newspaper, cut it out and put in on my easel. When I saw it I laughed and said, “OK, what do you want?”

Have a great day. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik


Winter’s Melody

December 20, 2010

“Cool colors recede; Warm colors come forward”, one of the most basic rules in painting, also applies to snow. Artists paint on a 2 dimensional surface, the canvas, attempting to make it appear 3 dimensional. So I paint the shadows of the snow near the door more blue (cooler). As the shadows come to the front, closer to the viewer, I make them more lavender (warmer). This helps give depth to the piece.

I don’t have a clue what these little flowers are. We have a picture of them taken in the Sonoran Desert with Joshua Trees in the background. The bright flowers and red stems popped against the snow covered foliage. When I saw them I thought, “What a great way to add color to a snow painting!”

The red fruit of the prickly pear also adds a touch of color. The bright white snow running behind the dark uprights of the cactus and yucca is another method to add depth to a painting. The shadow across the front of the painting adds to the dimension as well, acting as a “Threshold”. Think of an open doorway to a well lit home at night. Your eye naturally goes to the light in the open door, crossing the “Threshold” of darkness. The same happens here, the viewer’s gaze jumps over the darks in the foreground to the brightness beyond.

Winter’s Melody     30″ x 24″     Original Oil Painting

The yellow orange Mums are the icing on the cake, their brightness and warmth add to the overall depth of the painting. The soft sound of falling snow, a cardinal ‘chipping’ as he rustles in the dried foliage of the wisteria and footsteps crunching are all part of Winter’s Melody. And if you listen very carefully I believe you can hear voices inside “Singing Along with Mitch” as the Christmas tree is decorated. I’ve really enjoyed having you visit the studio, please come back again. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

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There was an Old Lady…

December 19, 2010

Since I’ll be painting a lot of snow today I go ahead and mix the colors needed. On the right side of my palette are various shades of blue and lavender for the snow. On the left are the mixes for the wisteria. I’ve made a warm green for the foliage still remaining on the vines, using Ultramarine Blue + Cadmium Yellow Medium.

The foliage is blocked in above. I’ve thrown in a few brushstrokes of Pthalo Blue + White. This adds interest and depth to the wisteria leaves. The nice thing about painting on a white canvas is the areas not covered give me an idea of how the snow will look on the foliage.

The final touch to the snow covered Wisteria is drawing the tendrils with a fine brush. When painting these I never fail to think of a childhood song. It was one of my favorites, “there was an old lady who swallowed a spider, that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her”. The wiggly, jiggly tendrils just tickle my imagination. Now let’s turn our attention to the chili ristra. Because the door is bright red I make the chili peppers a darker red, using a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red Deep. A little White is added to the mix for the highlights on the spicy peppers.

The yucca casts long, narrow, spiky shadows across the snow drifted on the window sill. These are fun to paint. After blocking in the basic shapes of the shadows I go back with a clean brush and soften the edges.

The Geraniums in Snowy Embrace were red and very striking juxtaposed against the blue door. I’ve made these Geraniums pink to look better with the red door. They also will be a nice combination with the turquoise bench.

The bench adds a nice southwestern touch to the piece. I use a Mahl Stick to brace my hand while painting the sun face on the back of the bench. The Mahl Stick hooks over the top of my easel, the other end rests against the palette. This makes fine detail work easier to do and puts much less strain on my shoulder. If you would like to see any of these pictures enlarged just click on the image. And I must admit Jack and I are happy sports fans tonight, our Dallas Cowboys won! So GO COWBOYS. See you tomorrow. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

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Undulating Trunks

December 18, 2010

The first step today is to  mix all of my adobe colors, from the darkest shadows to the lightest lights. The piece my collector liked, Snowy Embrace had a blue door with a touch of red in the adobe. Because this painting will have a red door, that color of adobe wouldn’t look very good. So I use a base combination of Cadmium Orange + Pthalo Blue + White which will give the walls a tiniest little bit of a green cast. This won’t be discernible to the eye but will make the red door appear even more vibrant.

The shadows are blocked in to begin with, then the sunlit area of the wall is painted. The upper part of the wall is lighter because it is closer to the light source, the sun. The wall darkens in value as it gets closer to the ground.

Using the same sequence I paint the door. Shadows first, then the light. Notice the shadows cast by the vigas. The edges are sharper close to the base of the protruding beam. As the shadow descends, away from its source, the edges soften. Also the color of the shadow gets cooler (bluer). This is fun to observe in nature, take a moment on a sunny day to study the shadows cast around your home.

Wisterias have the most wonderful, gnarled trunks, a real treat to paint. I mix several shades of brown using MUD (Ultramarine Blue + Alizarin Crimson) + Cadmium Orange + White. Then grab my brush and go, letting the strokes define the undulations of the twisting trunks. Thank you for visiting today, please feel free to come back tomorrow. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik


Tunnel of Light

December 17, 2010

We installed an arbor over our front walkway made of two sections of metal fencing, arched over and anchored to steel posts. The plan is to plant grapes in January. Eventually the arbor will be covered in grape vines, offering fruit and shade in the summer and an interesting texture of trunks in the winter. Martha Gonzales Roses are planted  at the base on the street side for colorful blooms and evergreen foliage. Our neighbor came up with a great idea, since it’s Christmas why not cover the arbor in lights?

Jack and I looked at each other, then said in unison, “How Cool!” Up I went, on the ladder to string the lights. Jack took this from the front porch. It was a little damp and chilly so I’m wearing the neon orange stocking cap he bought for me. When he gave it to me he laughed, “If I can’t see you in the garden at least I can hear you, that cap is so loud!”

So last night we flicked on the lights. We’ve always talked about the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, now we have the “Tunnel of Light”. We are going to leave the lights mounted on the arbor, they will be pretty twinkling through the grape vines. I can visualize walking under the grapes on a summer evening, lit by a soft glow. As Jack exclaimed, “What a Welcome!”

This morning it’s back to the easel. Now that we are decorated for Christmas, “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!” This commission is for a longtime collector who saw Snowy Embrace at the Santa Fe Art Collector Gallery. Karen and Ed fell in love with the painting but it was already sold. Besides they really wanted a piece to hang with another Senkarik that has a vertical orientation. So we decided to collaborate on a snow painting. This has been a lot of fun. Karen went through all of my blogs, picking elements she especially liked. Then I combined them into the sketch shown above. To see an enlargement just click on the picture.

Drawing this piece on the canvas I establish the basic construction lines, then add the snow. This allows me to get the proportions and perspective of the door, window, planter and bench correct. On the very first snow painting I did several years ago I did not follow this simple plan. Wow, what a disaster. When I was halfway through I realized the door was far too large for the rest of the elements in the painting. I had a lot of scraping and correcting to do on that one, but I did learn my lesson (smile). Come back and visit tomorrow, I’ll start adding color. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

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How you can get a Mahl Stick like Ours!

December 7, 2010

I can hardly believe the response to my blog on using a mahl stick. Several of you wanted to know where we got the ones we use. Jack and I purchased them from the Container Store in San Diego. But that was in 1994.

Thank goodness for the internet. After searching the net and a couple of phone calls I have some good news for you. The mahl sticks are still available. It is actually called a High Reach Garment Hook, used for lifting hanging clothes off high closet rods. But it works perfectly for a mahl stick. And it is only $19.99.

Just click here to see more info and to purchase the mahl stick.

I just wanted to share this with you since so many were interested. Hugs, Mikki Senkarik