For the Love of Birds

Denise and New Friend, Millie

Some of our new friends here have birds – LOTS of birds! We were all out in the backyard, and one of the birds, Millie, would not let us ignore her. She kept hollering out, “Hello, Millie! Hello, Millie!” They said that meant, “I want to be over there with you guys!”

So, Millie was brought over and she sat on my shoulder. But what Millie really wanted was the rice crackers that were on the table. (I guess they really do love crackers!)

Millie ate cracker after cracker. She would hop over to the table, reach her beak into the bowl, and grab a cracker. Then back up onto my  chair to eat it.

She was a very messy eater.

I gave her owners some of my “Tenaysha” notecards, which they loved!

Tomorrow I’ll show a picture of my studio here in Sedona.

Still Getting Those Ducks Lined Up

2011 has been very productive, so far. My daughter came up on Saturday and helped me decide on changes to my website and blog. My web designer is working on the blog changes right now. The BIG job will be the website changes.

Then Sunday morning it started snowing. Beautiful, but…

Start of the Storm

It was a great time to spend more time in my studio getting it reorganized.

Great Day to Be Inside

(By the way, those are our adobe walls that we laid ourselves 27 years ago! They’re a big reason why we haven’t had a heating bill in 27 years. The sun is the other reason. Oh, and our tile floors – thermal mass, you know.)

The first thing I did Sunday morning was take my computer out of my studio! I always thought that my studio was the perfect place for it – keep everything I needed for my art business in one room, you know.

But it has been the biggest hindrance to me painting in my studio for way too long, so out it went. I moved it to the guest bedroom, which is where I am sitting right now.

New Computer Setup

I set it up on two little TV trays, with a folding chair in front. I wanted to make sure it was NOT comfortable to sit at the computer (and trust me, it’s not!). I can’t wait to finish writing this so I can go stub my toe. Anything would be more comfortable.

But this is exactly what I needed. It feels very liberating!

Here’s a little painting I did:

Rocks and Waterfall, watercolor 7x9"

These little paintings are nice, and they’re fun, but I want to get after my big paintings again, now that the holidays are over. I’m not sure I can do them in my studio (I need lots of space), but I’ll give it a try.

My ducks are almost in a row.

Orange You Glad You Read This?

Today I painted a tree. A spring tree. But I’d rather post something orange.

Poppies, watercolor 7x9"

I decided this morning that I HAD to have orange-scented shampoo. Can it be that they make orange-scented shampoo and I’ve never known about it?!

This is what my morning showers have been missing! The zest, the zeal, the zing – the POW of smelling an orange!

There are many other scents that make me swoon. Like vanilla. That’s maybe my favorite. But it kind of makes me want to bake cookies.

The smell of an orange, however, makes me come alive!

I can’t eat oranges; they give me canker sores. So, I will have to be content with simply smelling oranges.

No, that’s not true. I can PAINT them. In fact, I have a photo I took of a still life (bad planning on my part: I set it up in the kitchen, and then dinner happened).

Still Life with Fruit

Now that I see it, there are only 2 oranges, but I can use my artistic license to make the 2 lemons on the left into oranges. But that will have to wait. I kind of like the photo. How can I improve on that?!

I’m going out tomorrow and have added one item to my shopping list:

-Buy orange oil

Oh, and look for orange-scented shampoo! Duh.

When I get home I will set about dabbing orange oil all around my studio, and then — POW! I wonder what kind of music goes with orange…suggestions, please.


HAPPY NEW YEAR…’s eve, everybody! Let me offer a toast to the New Year, 2011 (with my Water Martini – yes, it IS water…which always tastes better out of a fun glass).


I normally don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but there are some new habits I want to create, so this seems like a perfect time to commit to them.

To make sure that I remember to make my new habits into routines I will have to plaster reminders all over the place for awhile!

Works for me!

Here are my new habits/soon-to-be routines:

1. I will do one painting a day. I already “work” on my paintings in my head and visually every day, and I am constantly photographing things, which all feel like paintings to me, but those won’t count anymore.

The trick will be to make myself be satisfied with mediocre paintings. Up until now, every painting I’ve done becomes “a painting.” Here’s an example of one that I would consider unfit to show in public (I did it as a demo for a classroom full of kids – without looking, I might add!):

Goofball Cat - Unfit for Public Display

But, hey, this accurately depicts how I feel just THINKING about keeping myself on task! (My daughter loves this painting, by the way, and wants me to put it in one of my calendars. NO!)

So, even if I’m working on a “masterpiece,” I must still do a small painting.

2. I will have a weekly blogging schedule and stick to it. I will post every 1 to 7 days, not sure – boy, that narrowed it down! Actually, I’d be happiest if I blogged every day, or at least every weekday.

So don’t be upset if sometimes all I talk about is the glorious sunrise. Or the sunset. After all, they all fill my artistic well. But I will keep it mostly about my art life – hence, the title of my blog, “The Art of Life.”

3. I will Tweet on Twitter, or Twitter while I Tweet, or something like that, every day. Items 1 and 2 will help me with this. And I’m sure I’ll eventually find out why I’m Twittering…or Tweeting.

That’s it. Plain and simple, just the way I like it.

Rise and Shine

There was no sunrise this morning, because of the impending storm, but here was yesterday’s sunrise:

Sunrise from My Dining Room

Then I ran to the west side of the house to see the sunrise over there. There was the most beautiful glow on the mountains.

The Pink Sunrise Glow on the Mountains

I was lucky to catch the sunrise at all. I was sitting in bed writing in my journal, waiting for the sun to come up, and out it popped. But no sooner had I taken these pictures than the sun went up into a cloud, and that was the end of that.

Today’s storm came in early, while I was on my morning walk, so I decided it would be best not to go downtown to paint. They were predicting an inch of snow per hour.

And rather than pull my oil paints out of the freezer, when it was too cold outside to ventilate my studio, I decided to work on a sunrise watercolor.

Sunrise over Denver, Copyright 2010 Denise Bellon West, watercolor

If I don’t break out my oil paints tomorrow, I have another watercolor I want to work on. Flowers. I have Spring Fever. I always have Spring Fever, even in the summer.

Paint Green!

This will be my “Paint the Color Green” entry. I have things to say about the Earth-safety type green, but that will be on a later post. For now, I want to talk about the difficulty/fear, that many people have of painting the color green. I admit, I was really bad at it when I first started in watercolors. I had no clue what to do, and it was always a hit or miss (usually miss) proposition. Either I headed straight for my Sap Green or my Viridian. Sap Green was usually pretty good, but the Viridian was almost always disastrous.

What finally helped me was – well, actually, there were two things. One, I found watercolor artist Jeanne Dobie‘s fabulous book Making Color Sing.  On page 25 she had a much-needed chart for mixing greens. Two, I decided to make an exercise of painting a “green” painting. I looked out our sunroom windows and painted all the greens I saw. To this day, I still call this my “green painting.”

My Green Painting, watercolor by Denise Bellon West

That being said, it wasn’t until I discovered Daniel Smith‘s Quinachrodone Gold (I’ll call it QG) that I finally found true happiness. You cannot go wrong mixing greens once you have this color. Here’s a quote from Danial Smith’s website:

Everyone’s favorite, Quinacridone Gold replaces Raw Sienna and adds versatility with its glazing and mixing capabilities. It is an excellent low-staining golden yellow pigment that can enhance any mixture.

Try glazing an old “failure” with Quinacridone Gold to begin a rescue operation.

Highly durable and extremely transparent, all the Quinacridone colors excel in vivid clarity and intensity.

It can be mixed with any of the blues with gorgeous results, resembling real-life greens. But it really shines when added to greens, those greens that were never quite right on their own. Mixed with Veridian, that difficult color, it finally looks realistic. My favorite blue, Phthalo Blue, when mixed with QG, becomes a vivid, WOW green!

A friend told me a couple of years ago that there is a shortage of Quin Gold now, because of those new metallic orange-y colored cars that are so popular. I think they have caught up with the demand now. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Website Almost, Almost Finished

Now that my website is almost finished, I can continue with a feature that I started a couple of years ago, before my website and blog were deleted by my previous web designer. I had started to talk about some of my paintings – how I did them, what my thinking was, etc. If there are any of my paintings that you’d like to have explained, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just pick some at random.

Since spring is finally here, I’ll start with my painting Spring Fling, originally titled “In Celebration of Drips.”
Copyright Denise Bellon West

This was done on a full-size sheet of Arches 140-pound watercolor paper. I wet the entire sheet first with fresh water, using a brush. Working horizontally, I laid in light washes of turquoise, then gold, then pink.

I let that dry, and then I wet the paper again. This time I started laying paint on vertically. I mixed my colors with lots of pigment (not much water) and ran them down the paper in stem-type motions. When I did the last one, on the right side, I finished it with a horizontal stroke across the bottom, toward the left. This gave all the other paints a place to flow. I had the painting on an easel, so everything wanted to flow down.

Once all of that dried, and working now on dry paper, I took some more paint and a fairly dry brush and painted on some stylized flowers from my imagination. I put extra water on the ends of my stems and let them drip off the page.