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.


Something/Someone Has Invaded my Blog Posts!

Okay, I’m not as freaked out as this sounds or looks! But I guess I didn’t get the memo. This is a sneak attack!

I just noticed that hyperlinks have been added to my blog posts, where I didn’t put any. If they are clicked (the ones with the double underline – you can see them in this post), they are links to advertisements on the Internet. How rude for the unsuspecting reader!

I did not and would not have authorized them.

Ho ho! I am going to have to fiddle around now and find out how to stop this invasion. There must be some setting that I am not aware of that will disallow these hyperlinks.

I will find them! TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Buzz Light Year

P. S. This is so weird. Big Brother must be watching, because now I can’t find the hyperlinks. It appears that Home Depot somehow wormed their way into my blog post and highlighted “fluorescent bulbs” and “shop lights,” and now the hyperlinks have vanished! If they should reappear, don’t be fooled into clicking.

P.P.S. Has anyone else had this happen?

P.P.P.S. I’m writing this on September 7. I discovered the culprit: Adware. My computer must have been infected with Adware – sneaky, uninvited, intrusive software that highlights keywords and reroutes the curious clicker to a store’s website to buy something if they click the link! The good news is that when I look at something a second time, my anti-virus software has cleaned it up. So, if you are not seeing the double-underlined links on pages you visit, then your computer hasn’t been infected.

Art Humor – this is good!

Now, don’t go reporting me for plagiarism! I have no idea where this is from, or I’d give credit. For all I know, maybe it’s been going around the Internet for years. But I just got the e-mail, and it’s too good not to spread around.

(Have you ever tried to turn an e-mail into a blog post? Let me tell you, it’s not easy!)

Here’s the joke:


A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre.

After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings, and made it safely to his van.    However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied, ‘Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings.’

I had no Monet

To buy Degas

To make the Van Gogh.


See if you have De Gaulle, to send this on to someone else.


I sent it to you because I figured I had nothing Toulouse.


Light from Above…or from Home Depot

A sunset winetasting at Page Springs Cellars – Page Springs, Arizona.

A nice way to end a beautiful weekend…

It was an especially good weekend, because wonderful hubby installed my new studio lights for me! (See my last post about this here.)

This is the BEFORE picture of my studio. Hardly any light. Certainly not enough to see what I’m painting – which could actually be a good thing!

Then, voila! LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!

I now have “daylight” fluorescent lights over both sides of my studio.

It would be nice to have more storage space and painting space, but I’m not complaining! I think I can make this work for the next year, until my new studio is ready for me.

Until then, onward and artward! Oh, one more thing: my random thought for the day.

Have you ever noticed that you’re taller when you wake up than when you went to bed??? IT’S TRUE! (If you want to know how I discovered this, just ask…)


Dark Studio to See the Light!

Today is a travel day for me, so I’m just going to let my pictures do the talking (talking?).

Here is my studio in the daytime (I normally have everything on easels and nothing in the center of the room, but I need to work on these paintings flat for now):

Now, how in the world is a girl to paint in a dark, crowded place like this???! I’d go outside, but it’s almost 100 degrees! Call me a wimp.

(My kingdom for my new studio!!! But, alas, our new house hasn’t even begun yet, so it will be awhile.)

Here is my studio at night. Do you see those little black lamps aimed up at the walls, way in the corner? I have one in each corner, and they are my only light in the room!

So, after a quick trip to Home Depot yesterday, I’m armed with two new shop lights, complete with daylight fluorescent bulbs, that I’ll hang from the ceiling…when I get back home. (This is my black easel that I use when I paint. It’s a floor easel that I have configured to fit on my countertop to save floor space.)

Now, gotta go finish packing! TTFN

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.

Wee, this Is Fun!

I need to go work on some paintings for my annual calendar and need a day off. So, here goes, gang! No rules, remember? I’ll start with a photo I’ve had kicking around that I’ve never known what to do with. All I know is that it makes me laugh every time I see it.

What shall the caption for this photo be?

Help me think up a good caption. Ideas, anyone? The funnier, the better! Ah, the Art of Life.