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?

The 6-Step Guide to How Denise Lost Her Groove

"Pegasus" Copyright 2012, Denise Bellon West

My most recent knife painting, “Pegasus.”

Let me just say that I LOVED doing this painting! After all, it’s an oil; I LOVED the colors; I LOVED the subject (an animal); I loved that much of it was done with a knife…but here is The Rest of the Story.

First, before I get into the hows and whys of how the Painting Workshop I took (run by 2 lovely and talented ladies, Dreama Tolle Perry and Leslie Saeta) affected me so profoundly, you need to understand my circuitous path from frustrated watercolorist to impassioned oil painter to disgruntled oil painter to…add your own adjective. Here’s how it evolved:

1. In the beginning, I was a full-time watercolorist for 10 years. I didn’t enjoy the process very much (people will tell you that watercolors are THE most difficult medium to master – I didn’t get the memo), but I loved the end results, which made it all worthwhile! Then one day I finally felt worthy enough to tackle the medium of the Masters and took the monumental plunge into oils. Wait a minute – are you kidding me???! I waited 10 years before learning oils???! I thought there was supposed to be some magical, scary, extremely special thing about them. But they were the easiest thing I had ever done!!

My Almost-Still-Usable, but Ruined Brushes

2. I learned pretty quickly, though, that although I loved smearing the oil paints around, I had no patience for the rudiments of the medium. Case in point: I ruined pretty much every paint brush I ever touched, because I couldn’t be bothered to constantly swish my brushes in the solvent every time I wanted to change colors. At the end of each painting session, I would look at my sorry brushes, all jammed full of paint and with the bristles splayed in every direction, and try several methods, all toxic, to clean the paint out. Of course they were beyond the stage of being cleanable (kind of like when you discover that you can’t get white socks clean anymore after you’ve been wearing them around the house all week – I keep trying to teach my husband this). So I was left with having to paint with my now-worthless brushes. Or to keep having to buy new ones all the time (ahem).

Goin' Fishin', Copyright Denise Bellon West

(I taught myself how to paint with a knife with this painting. It was pure desperation. I was visiting the in-laws, standing in their laundry room, and I had brought only the 1 painting knife I owned and some paint. The rest is history.)

3.  So, eventually I decided to paint only with knives whenever I painted outdoors or when I traveled. This way there would be no need to have to clean brushes all the time, which would mean way fewer things I had to pack and much less time spent cleaning brushes – a chore I abhorred!

4. Next phase: Without cross ventilation in my studio, it did no good to leave the window open while I painted. I was asphyxiating myself with all the solvents! I decided to use my “odorless” mineral spirits only at the beginning stage of each painting, and to do that part outside or in the garage. I tried to use knives for the rest of the painting, but found myself longing for a brush at times. Okay, most of the time. Oh, who am I kidding? All the time!

5. This is when I morphed into my signature brush/knife/finger-painting method of painting – kind of like my nutty method of playing ping pong (emphasis on the word “playing”), where you use a combination of hands and paddles, walls, ceiling – anything immediately available that might keep the ball from touching the floor! It’s absolutely exhilarating, and I highly recommend it!

6. But, alas, I found myself putting off painting as much as possible when I was at home. This meant that I would pretty much paint just once a week, when I went downtown to paint with my Studio 208 group.

Next, I will post about the surprises I got from my painting workshop…or How I Got My Groove Back. Meanwhile, have any of these things happened to you? Have you done any morphing over the years? From what? Into what? Leave a comment, and we can commiserate with each other.


Artists Helping Artists, Pasadena Workshop 2

Dreama Tolle Perry and Leslie Saeta

My 2 talented, fun, caring, sharing, and amazing teachers! Full of great information.

Enjoying 2 enchanting evenings at Leslie’s warm and friendly, “Father of the Bride” house.

Night 2 of Leslie’s impressive, gourmet cooking.

Followed by social time with the group - 33 new friends, and I’m not talking about Facebook!

After using my first week back to get caught up on unpacking, laundry, e-mails, etc., I decided I’d better hurry and finish the paintings I had started in the workshop!

First up, my vase and flowers painting still needed a little sprucing. Here’s the latest “Final Answer” on it. The lady next to me in the workshop, Ginny, said that this looked like a tapestry. She was right! So I tentatively named it “Garden Tapestry.”

Garden Tapestry, Copyright 2012 Denise Bellon West

Dreama had shown us how she signs her paintings by “drawing” into the wet paint. Works pretty slick…when you remember to do it! Note to self: Do this even if I’m not finished. I already know where I want to sign, so why not do it now? I can always paint it out if I change my mind. This little trick will save me so much time and anguish!

Leslie showed us how she photographed her paintings, by taking them outside in the sun, holding them upright (not tipped toward the sky at all), and pivoting around until the light is just right.

I did that yesterday, and I think it worked pretty well! I used an easel to hold my painting, but I didn’t use a tripod for my camera (I haven’t seen mine since our move!). The only thing I wished for was a polarizer, because I still had a little bit of shine. But that might effect the colors, so this is good.

How do you photograph your artwork? Hire a professional? Or do it yourself? What’s your technique?

Artists Helping Artists, Pasadena Workshop

My Hotel in Pasadena, California

I had the great pleasure of attending a painting workshop in Pasadena, California, a week ago. I had tried to sign up months and months ago but was afraid I might not be able to attend, because I would be entrenched in the building of my new studio. Didn’t want any decisions being made without me, you know! My name was relegated to the workshop’s waiting list instead. Then I forgot all about it.

Fast forward 9 months, and one day I remembered the workshop! OMG, I hope it’s not too late to sign up!! I got online and squeaked in, just before the workshop was full. It was my birthday present to myself.

Here was my first day’s painting effort – not totally finished. It was from a photo that I’ve been wanting to paint for a couple of years now. It was from “Rick & Kristen’s” wedding in Cortez, Colorado. Friend Patsy had buckets of gorgeous bouquets set out everywhere, and this one spoke to me (it’s an artist thing – we have very good hearing).

"Garden Tapestry" Copyright 2012 Denise Bellon West

More on the workshop tomorrow. Must run out and check out the new Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage) that just opened here in Sedona. It was my favorite store in Colorado! Well, next to Costco, that is…

Honk if you love Vitamin Cottage! TTFN



FRESH New Paint Palette

Pretty picture time – the last push of monsoon moisture to pass through here. I’ll throw it in before I have only snow moisture to show.

Sedona Monsoon Moisture

In getting ready for a painting workshop in Pasadena, California, last week (more on that later), I decided it was high time that I spruce up my palette, especially since I didn’t have many of the paints the teachers wanted us to use.

But, the real reason I needed to do that sprucing? Oh, alright. When the dust settled after our move, and I finally found where my palette had been hiding out, I discovered that most of my paints were almost completely dried up.

(This would not have happened if, like normal artists, I squirted out fresh paint every time I painted. But I would never paint if I had to do that!!! Instead, I invented a method that I have used for years. It involves using a bead-storage case, squirting out pounds of paint, literally, and covering them with water at the end of every day. In the morning, I pour the water off on a plant outside. Read about it here.)

This is the frightful mess I discovered after our move. Yuck!

My Earthy Color Palette

My Reds, Blues, and Greens

So, what would any sensible artist have done in the ensuing months?

Let’s just say that I’m not one of those.

Instead of cleaning everything up and loading fresh paint, I decided that I would fight my way through what was left by digging holes in, around, and through the dried-up globs of old paint!

So, how did this work for you, Denise?

Well, maybe not extremely well. But, hey, I’m a busy girl! I have no time to spend an hour making things easier for myself (what’s the phrase? Short-term pain for long-term gain?). What a silly question.

If I couldn’t find even the teensiest bit of soft paint left in one of my blobs, rather than squirt out a bit of fresh paint, like any normal person would have done, and let’s not forget would have been admitting defeat, I would do whatever I had to do to try to mix the color I needed!

They don’t call me The Tenacious Painter for nothing! (I know, you’re thinking of some other terms that you don’t need to share with me.)

“Let’s see…how can I make brown out of blue and yellow and white? (The answer, of course, is YOU CAN’T! You will always end up with some version of green!)


I decided that, while I could easily get away with painting a brown horse green, I got into trouble when I tried to paint, say, a slice of bread green. It probably wouldn’t be a very big seller. Discretion, after all, is the better part of valor.

Some like to call this artistic license.

Any time we artists screw up, we get to use that license. And women can even throw in the “woman’s prerogative” thing.

Alright, alright. I spent that stupid hour and cleaned out and loaded my palette with fresh paint.

Here is what my old color palette used to look like, freshly loaded:

Nice…but not very inspiring…unless you’re a landscape painter – which I am NOT! (It’s taken me 5 years to figure this out???!!)

But here it is now, with my GORGEOUS new colors (and I have more, waiting in the wings).

Voila! These ones are bright and happy and make me want to dive into a painting! Who knew that I was shooting myself in the foot all these years, using boring colors?! (I know this will surprise you, but I found myself always trying to mix the fun colors I craved, using those ugly colors. FYI, it doesn’t work!)

Next, I will post a picture of my first FRESH painting.

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Random thought:  If “sept” means 7, then why is September the 9th month? Saw this question explained in this article.  Hint: it’s all Julius Caesar’s fault.

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Here’s one more: Did you know that the plural of “cul de sac” is “culs de sac”? Throw that one around at your next social gathering! Here’s how you would use it in a sentence: “Well, what a coincidence – we both live on culs de sac!”

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And so goes the Art of Life.


No More Frogs for Me

No more frogs for me. I have moved on to bigger and better things. Ribbit.

And the Super Bowl is over. I thought I was going to root for the Steelers (I couldn’t remember who else was in it, and besides, my dad is from Pittsburgh and used to work in the steel mills, so what the hey?). I couldn’t root for the team with the best uniforms, because they both had yellow pants. What’s up with that? Very poor planning.

But when I remembered that Ben Roethlisberger was part of the Pittsburgh team (AM I A GREAT FOOTBALL FAN OR WHAT?!), I wanted the Packers to win. And they did. If Brett Favre had been in there I wouldn’t have known what to do. He shamed himself terribly in There’s Something about Mary and I’ve had a poor opinion of him ever since (just kidding!).

So, between designing a new house, remodeling another house, and selling a house it’s been tough to get into a routine lately with my art work. However, I discovered that if I leave the house and paint downtown with my Studio 208 group I can get a lot done.

I finally have my seagull looking the way I want it to. Who knew it would be so difficult to make a seagull look like a seagull?! First I tried cheating. I cut out the image from my photo and was going to trace the stupid thing.

But that didn’t work because no matter what I did, my printer would not enlarge my image to the size I had it in my painting! (I now have a pile of 8½x11” seagull prints and a near-empty black-ink cartridge.)

So I tried to enlarge it mentally – see my blue outline?

That must have gotten me closer to having a proper-looking seagull, because then I was able to adjust and tweak until he/she/it finally looked right. (I’m nothing if not persistent!) My seagull now has the proper outline.

Seagull shape that finally feels right to me.

I have played with the other areas of the painting, and now all I have to do is paint the silly bird and tweak my colors a bit.

What’s your favorite fix-it story? Or do you have an in-progress montage to share?

Cows Are Too Cool!

I just got my “Moo” painting back from its owners. They are commissioning me to paint another Moo to give as a gift.

Moo - need I say more?

But I need some help here. What should I name the new painting?

Should I name it Moo Redo?

Or Moo2?

Maybe Moo Too.

New Moo? Or would that be Noo Moo?

How about Moo Anew?

More Moo?

I’m really glad I named the painting Moo. I’m having entirely too much fun with the name! I mean rename.

Can you add to my silliness?

Playing with the Landscape 2

This landscape painting was even more fun, because I allowed more color. Grab the knife and swirl on the paint. It’s like icing a cake (you wondered why I like knife painting so much).

Color Study

That and there are no brushes to clean! And no turp fumes! Can it get any better than this?


When I paint with knives I don’t even use a medium. Just paint, straight from the tube! Luscious, creamy, gooey, smeary, velvety oil paint. Mmm…


Well, another reason I like working with a knife is that I tend to get the colors right the first time and never have to go back, which means that it takes less time to paint.

So, I’m off to paint downtown tomorrow, IF the predicted snowstorm doesn’t sound too bad. We’re supposed to get 10″ at my house, but that’s nothing for my trusty Artmobile! She can get me through 12″ of new snow.

Either way, I’ll be trying again to finish my seagull. I mean I WILL be finishing my seagull. I worked on it for a few hours last week, and then wiped off everything I had done! One step forward, two steps back.

I’ll know when I get it.

Seagull Painting – Me painting it, Not it painting

Yesterday was spent downtown painting with friends, a Thursday ritual. Great camaraderie, critiques aplenty, and an atmosphere of total freedom and creativity.

I worked more on the seagull painting I started last time I was there. This was how it looked after Day 1:

Seagull start 1

I was happy with the water and the dock, but not the seagull’s pose. So I just roughed him in, to be dealt with later.

By the way, this is a knife painting, meaning that it’s painted with painting knives, not paint brushes. It’s much more economical for me if I don’t paint with brushes. I’m not very disciplined about cleaning the paint out of them as I paint – who can be bothered??? So I pretty much ruin a brush (or brushes) every time I paint.

Anyway, after looking at the painting for a couple of weeks I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like. The first thing I wanted to do was try to get the bird’s proportions nailed down and capture his gesture.

But in doing that, I also decided that I didn’t like the proportion of the post he was sitting on. It felt too wide for the size of the painting. So, I pretty much scrubbed out the gull and his perch. After Day 2:

Getting closer to what I want.

There, now that’s the happy looking seagull I want! Almost.

I’ll look at him for a few days, and if I see nothing that I want to change I’ll finish him up. I’ll knife in some more water and slash on his white feathers. And then, hopefully, I won’t see anything else I want to change.

I’m up for critiques. If you have anything you want to say, let me hear it.