Designing My Dream Art Studio, Part 1

I promised to post a picture of my very dirt-y new studio, so here it is:

Me in My New Studio 1

It gets a little chilly when the sun goes down and the breeze picks up! Pasha keeps me warm; she’ll be my little studio mascot.

I decided that it was time to pull out my studio wish list and see if I had forgotten anything. This is what I have come up with over the years for my Dream Studio:

- A stained-concrete floor

- In-floor radiant heat

- Fresh-air ventilation (maybe an air-to-air heat exchanger, or whatever they’re called these days)

- A bathroom (so that I don’t get paint on door handles, etc.)

- A sink, with towel bar and paper-towel rack (so that I don’t have to clean up in another room and get paint on door handles, etc.)

- A wall where I can hang paintings and paint on them while they’re on the wall (I love going around my house and “revisiting” paintings, where I see something that needs a quick fix)

- Flat-file cabinets to store paintings, paper, office supplies, etc. (these have very huge but very shallow drawers)

- Vertical partitions to store canvases, paintings, matboard, etc. (maybe outside of studio)

- Hooks for aprons and smocks

- Small desk space for computer, printer, stapler, etc. (the one thing I have problems organizing is PAPER, so this must be kept small!!!)

- 2 file-cabinet drawers

- Area for shipping supplies – labels, tape, stamps, bubble wrap,  etc.

- Large table in center of studio for framing or painting; on casters so that it can be moved around – storage underneath/inside it

- Drawers to store all my notecards and envelopes, reference photos, etc.

- Display shelves around perimeter of room for leaning wet paintings and viewing them often, until I pronounce them “Finished!

- Mirror on wall for viewing paintings backwards (maybe on bathroom door)

- Cabinet with doors for all my books and videos

- Drawers for my caulk-tube paints and tubes of paint

- Shallow top-drawers at painting areas for brushes and knives

- Neutral-gray Formica counters (this will make any counter a perfect palette for mixing paint – therefore, I must have the next item on the list!)

- Glass tops on counters for easy cleanup

- Entrance to outside, so I can get deliveries easily, paint outside easily, have a separate entrance for studio tours, etc.

- Small refrigerator/freezer to store my wet oil-paint palette to keep the paint soft

- Floor space for extra easels (so I can work on more than one large painting at a time)

- Counter space for table easels (so I can work on more than one small painting at a time)

- Ceiling light fixtures, equipped with “daylight” bulbs, providing uniform lighting throughout the room

- Slide screen mounted to ceiling

- Beautiful plants inside and out. And a hammock! And a lounge chair! And a margarita bar – woohoo!

What have I missed? What are some of your favorite space-saving ideas? What are your must-haves for your studio?



Javelinas in Paradise

A storm started rolling in Monday afternoon, which is where the Paradise part comes in:



Then, on my way up to our lot to check on the house build, a troupe of javelinas trotted across the road in front of me.

Javelinas 1


They always look like they should be wearing high heels and carrying a purse, to go with their dainty little feet!

Javelinas 2

If I can find a cute enough picture, I think I will have to  paint one of the little guys. Or gals. With their little babies – SO CUTE!!

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get the colors adjusted to my liking on my new macaw painting, “Rio.”

Copyright Denise Bellon West, macaws

Here’s a question for you: If you can debunk something, does that mean you could bunk it???



Ad in Southwest Art Magazine!

Denise Bellon West ad in Southwest Art Magazine

My ad in Southwest Art Magazine, the April 2013 issue

Here’s my ad that appears in the April issue of Southwest Art Magazine!

I will be posting a picture of my new art studio soon.

Warning: there’s still a lot of dirt in it!!



30 Paintings in 30 Days – How Did I Do?

First, the pretty picture. This is what we woke up to this morning – an inch of new snow, which was a total surprise!

Denise Bellon West - Yucca with Snow

So, how did I do with my “30 paintings in 30 days” challenge???

Well, this is one of those good-news/bad-news things. But since there’s way more good news than bad news, I’ll start with the Bad News.


No, I didn’t get 30 paintings done in 30 days.

There. That wasn’t so bad now, was it?



Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West - Darling Pasha

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West – Darling Pasha

- I did get some new paintings done, like my little sweetheart Pasha.

…but then I got sort of sidetracked…and revisited several others, like this one:

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West, Feathergrass in Fall

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West, Feathergrass in Fall


And this one:

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West, Rio

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West, Rio

(This is why you don’t have me paint anything that isn’t a painting; it’s one of those If You Give a Mouse a Cookie sort of things. You ought to see me try to paint a wall, for instance. I do a little here, then a little over there, then up here, then some down there… Finally, someone has to come and paint the wall for me!)

- I spent several days designing 17 new notecards, and I’m still working on them. These 2 new ones will be made into Christmas cards for next year – nos. 18 and 19!

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West, CHRISTMAS WREATH


Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West - Bows and Berries

Copyright 2013 Denise Bellon West – Bows and Berries

- An ad will be coming out in Southwest Art Magazine in a month or two, which took another few days to work out.

- Countless hours were spent working on my website redesign – which has turned into a HUGE overhaul!

- And, last but not least, hours and days were spent getting ready for construction to begin on our house, which is finally underway!!!!!!!

Here is my escapism before I drift off to sleep. Arnold on my nightstand!

Denise Bellon West - Arnold on My Nightstand

I had no interest in reading Arnold’s new book, but, hey, I’m a groupee through and through.

The book jumped off the library shelf as I was walking by, so I figured I’d take it home and look at all the pictures (of which there are MANY). I will say, that the final chapter is well worth the read. He may not be the perfect human being, but he sure has a lot of admirable traits.

What’s on your nightstand?

Art in all the Right Places

My son made these for Toys for Tots

My son built these 9 little VWs last month as a donation for Toys for Tots. He bought all the wood, and cut and sawed and drilled and sanded and stained, until…voila!

He said he was sad to see them go; he had grown quite fond of them. They were like his babies.

I totally understand that feeling, as that is what it’s like to have a painting leave my studio. Like a part of my family is leaving to start a life of its own.

And the new addition to my  studio is my new collapsible hula hoop from Hoop Bunnny. It’s gorgeous! It opens out to almost 40″.

My new collapsible hula hoop!

My new collapsible hula hoop!

Too much wet oil paint around here to try it out right now, but I’ll move some paintings and give it a whirl, as it were.

On second thought, it’s too beautiful to risk getting blobs of paint on it. I’ll try to find a spot somewhere else, where I won’t knock anything over!

It will be a great diversion for me, when I get too wrapped up in what I’m painting. I always get this sort of “electrical charge” going between me and my paintings that is hard to break. When I do manage to break free of the connection and come up for air, I always feel like I’ll collapse in a puddle on the floor.

Now, after I scoop myself up off the floor, maybe I’ll manage to whittle a waist for myself, and then come back all refreshed. What’s your favorite stress buster????












30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Starting the New Year off right: 2013, a Bright New Year!!!

I have signed up for a painting challenge – 30 paintings in 30 days – with Leslie Saeta. I’ll be doing small paintings, like the ones I did for this year’s calendar.

Not that painting small necessarily translates into “faster” or “easier to paint.” In fact, I discovered that the small ones take every bit as much time as the bigger ones! The main advantage is that they take up much less space in my already cramped studio! Heck, I can store them in a drawer, if I want.

I’ve been back home from our holiday trip to Colorado since Wednesday and, since then, have been pouring through hundreds (no, thousands!) of my photos to gather a collection of things that I want to paint.

At least for the beginning of this challenge I have decided to paint Christmassy things. (Find the hidden doggie in the photo below.)

All I Want for Christmas...

I have been asked many times over the years if I have a line of Christmas/holiday notecards. The answer has always been, “Sorry, no. But someday I will!”

Well, the time has come. Christmas is still fresh in my heart and mind, and I am ready to go!

But first things first. To get started, I have decided to tone the first few panels with a bright-red underpainting. Then I will let that red show through, here and there, as I paint.

Any ideas for what you’d like to see on a Winter/Christmas/Holiday card? Do you like snowy scenes, items like brightly colored gifts, or maybe just splashes of color?


Christmas Withdrawal!

Red and Wild, Copyright 2011 Denise Bellon West

Is anyone else suffering from Christmas withdrawal? My daughter pointed out to me on Wednesday that it’s the saddest day of the year for her – December 26, the day after Christmas.

All the magic stops. Cold Turkey.

Not everyone has a turkey painting they can pull up at a moment's notice!

The happy, fun, beautiful Christmas songs on the radio have come to a screeching halt.

No more Christmas music and jingling bells in the malls.

The happy holiday shoppers have been replaced with half-crazed bargain hunters.

The wrapping paper and pretty presents aren’t under the tree anymore.

The anticipation of having people open their gifts from you has been replaced with a pile of new things to be put away and the used wrapping paper and boxes.

The anticipation of all the fun Christmas/holiday events don’t hold the magical, fantasy feel that they did before December 25.

Magical Vail

We have always had so many fun, family holiday traditions, starting the day after Thanksgiving. For example:

1. Pulling out the pile of our favorite Christmas books to read before bed every night, ending with The Polar Express and Twas the Night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

2. Watching our favorite Christmas movies, starting the day after Thanksgiving. (Our current favorites include The Family Man, The Santa Clause, Home Alone, and The Holiday. Sometimes we still watch the older, classic ones, like It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooge and Miracle on 34th Street.)

3. Play games – family time. Ping-pong or playing Apples to Apples.

Do I know my daughter, or what?!! Tom Cruise it is!

How about implementing a set of After-Christmas traditions? Why should the fun end abruptly on December 25?!

Here are some ideas to milk the holidays for all they’re worth:

- Hide some little presents around the house to be discovered throughout the year.

- Stick one in your spouse’s lunch or briefcase, or stuffed down a sleeve, that will be found on that 1st day back at work.

- Stick a movie gift certificate or Red Box certificate in their wallet, so that it will be found the first time they buy something.

- Make a surprise entry on their calendar for a fun event or special date, which will be discovered later. If I found a little note tied to a favorite, warm throw, saying that we had a date to go see a Christmas-light or fireworks display on a certain date, that would make me smile.

Decorated Scrimshaw

- Stick a gift in a glove or tied to a snow-shovel handle – maybe an IOU for a cup of hot chocolate when they’ve finished shoveling next time. Or yummy smelling lip balm to keep them company out there – poor dears!

- Maybe a new, warmer hat inside that ratty old hat. Or new socks magically taking the place of old, holey ones, which they’ll find when they open the drawer at some later date. A little note on top will make them smile.

- Or how about just putting a bow on or tying a ribbon around random items throughout the year that let people know you were thinking of them when you got the item. The FlyLady at is fond of saying that nothing says I Love You like making sure you don’t run out of TP!! I know – TMI, right? Well, I’d be happiest if I was about to run out of Kleenex and saw a new, pretty box with a bow on top! That would definitely make me smile.

Please leave a comment and share your favorite holiday traditions and/or add to my After-Christmas ideas. Ho, ho, ho!


2013 Calendars Have Arrived!

Oh my gosh – it has been a very long haul this year, but all the pieces have finally fallen into place for my 2013 calendars!

If you would like to order one (or more), go to my website and click on the Calendar tab at the top.

Dah-dah-dah (that’s a trumpet, announcing the new arrival)…

Me and Pierre


Here is a collage I made so that you could see the month images:

Here are the stats:

Size: 11×17″ when opened

Price: $20 each, plus $1.95 shipping (no matter how many you order)

This year’s calendars are printed on premium card stock, so they will stand up to any Post Office abuse.

I have a few calendars that can be sent out right away, so don’t wait to decide! Just jump in there and make a management decision. You won’t be sorry – you’ll get a year of happiness in your mailbox in just a few days!

And they make great last-minute gifts!

6 (Surprising!) Ways Denise Got her Groove Back…with Knives

My snazzy, talented and oh-so-GROOVY workshop classmates:

Again, if you haven’t read my post on how I lost my groove, it might help to read it first, because it explains why these things I’m about to tell you helped me. (You might also want to see my post about how I got the BRUSH part of my groove back.)

Here are the 6 Surprises I came away with from the KNIFE side of my workshop experience:

1. I have always LOVED the fact that no solvents or mediums are needed when painting with knives; the paint is used full strength, straight from the tube. But Leslie blocks in her paintings with full-strength paint from the very start of her paintings! I had never done that. I had always brushed on mineral-spirits-thinned paint first; then started in with my knives. Doing it Leslie’s way saves me one stinky step!!!

Leslie starting her painting.

2 .  Leslie uses water-soluble oil paints (yes, there actually is such a thing!). Read about them here. I had heard of them over the years and, in fact, I’d had a few tubes of them for years but had never known how to use them nor how they differ from regular oil paints. Answer: you use them interchangeably, and along with, regular oil paints. One of the benefits is that the paints don’t have that oil-paint smell that permeates a room. And they clean up with soap and water, rather than with solvents. One more stinky step eliminated!!!

3. Leslie premixes her paints on her palette. At first I thought I’d never bother with this, but I have already seen myself evolving into doing a bit of premixing. Never say never, right?

Leslie's palette of pre-mixed colors.

4. I already had several painting knives, but I ordered the knives that Leslie wanted for the class (3 of the first 4 on the left). I wanted to make sure I had the right sizes for painting small, which was going to be a new experience for me. When the knives came, I was happy that they were thin and flexible. I knew that my flexible ones were the most maneuverable and, hence, the ones I used the most. I also discovered that my favorites are the teardrop shape with a pointy tip.

3 of these were bought for the class.

5. Before this workshop, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would need to start painting with acrylics. So, I was poised to spend loads of money on a new batch of paints: namely, Golden Open acrylics, because they “feel” and act like oils. I would probably still ruin lots of brushes, probably even more of them, but at least I wouldn’t need to use solvents anymore. Or fill the house with the smell of linseed-oil based paints. I’m so happy that I can stay with oils now!!!

6. Leslie and Dreama both sign their paintings by “drawing” their signatures into their paintings. They each grab a pointy utensil (Dreama uses a rubber tool; Leslie uses a wooden skewer) and sign into the wet paint. This is so fabulous! It’s pretty much impossible to sign a dried knife painting, over all the hills and valleys and ridges of paint. I’ve always said that it takes me as long to sign my paintings as it took to paint them! Now, if I can just remember to do this while the painting is still wet.

One of Leslie’s thought gems that hit home with me was when she reminded us to enjoy the process. “If you pre-plan your painting, you’ll never get there. You’ll worry and fret and try to paint it now the way you envision it as the final painting.” She is right on.

So, overall, I feel like I’ve been launched into the stratosphere with my art. The planets have aligned. I feel free! The shackles have been removed. I’m Michael Jordan with a brush!

Onward and upward – Buzz Lightyear, eat your heart out! Or hold on tight.

What am I forgetting? What other things make the whole painting experience easy and fun and streamlined? And un-smelly?

5 (Surprising!) Ways Denise Got her Groove Back…with Brushes

The Space Shuttle Endeavor passed over Pasadena on its way to L.A., during our workshop. Classmate Sue Feldmeth snapped this amazing photo of it!

If you haven’t read my previous post on how I lost my groove, it might help to read it first, because it explains why these things I’m about to tell you helped me.

Alright, so I have been to many painting workshops over the years, but this one proved to be transformative. When I tell you the reasons, they sound so silly; they’re all so simple! How could these simple little things make such a huge difference in me and my art?!

Well, that’s why I’m calling them “surprises.” The workshop consisted of 2 days of Dreama painting with a brush and 2 days of Leslie painting with a knife. I’m talking only about the brush part of the workshop here. These are the 5 BRUSH surprises I took home from the Leslie/Dreama painting workshop.:

1.  Dreama had specified using the Winsor & Newton “Monarch” flat brushes for the workshop. I didn’t have any small flat brushes (most of mine were the “filbert” shape), so I ordered them. BIG SURPRISE: they’re actually amazing to use! They keep a perfect, chiseled edge (so they behave much like using a knife!), and they have a nice “spring” to them – not too soft, not too floppy, and not too stiff. Baby Bear would proclaim them to be “just right…”

Winsor & Newton flat "Monarch" brushes

Perfect, sharp chiseled edges

2. Dreama’s technique of “pinching” the brush with a paper towel, almost constantly, to squeegee out paint during painting. This was a foreign concept for me and eliminated the need to keep swishing my brushes in odorless mineral spirits (nothing odorless about them!) as I painted.

3. Viva paper towels. When I saw that Viva paper towels were mentioned as “the best” on the workshop supply list, I figured, “Geesh, I’m just going to be wiping off paint and throwing it in the trash. I’ll just use my usual Costco-bought, jumbo-size roll of Bounty paper towels.” Big mistake! It turns out that the Vivas are so absorbent that they actually wick the paint out of the brush every time I pinch. With the Bounties, I would pinch, but the paint was just squeezed off the brush, as opposed to being “wicked out.” When I got home I immediately bought a 6-roll package. I knew I was in the Zone, because they were on sale for ½ off!

4. Dreama uses walnut oil as her medium (which thins the paint for the first layer). I have always used linseed oil (which is flammable…and stinks) or Liquin (a quick-drying agent, which gives the paint a sheen…and stinks). Walnut oil was used by the Masters and has no odor whatsoever; and, as you might guess, is non-toxic. The timing for switching mediums could not have been more perfect. My linseed oil had totally dried up, and I have never found my Liquin after our move. Again, proving that I was in the Zone.

5. Dreama repeatedly made the point: “Paint what is near and dear to your heart – paint what is in your soul.” She does this, and her love for her subjects exudes from every painting – see them here. (This is why people can copy the paintings of the Masters, but the copies will never have the same FEELING. They can’t copy the “soul” or the passion that was painted into the original. You’ll just have to trust me on this; it is there. I have stood in front of famous paintings – like some by Van Gogh and Renoir – and been moved to tears. That would never happen with a copy.)

Me and Vincent


So, stay tuned for Part 2 – The KNIFE Part – of getting my groove back.

Meanwhile, have you used any of these ideas? What things have changed your art experience? It’s easy to leave a comment, so please do!