12.31.2008

2008 in Review

2008 was a great year for me and my art. I entered the year desiring to take chances personally. With the mantra to respond more with a yes than a no, I was able to grow many ways as a person and an artist.

Not a good winter painter because I prefer working outdoors, the year started off slowly. From this, I've learned how important it is for me to be engaged in a class through the cold months. Choices need to be made in the coming weeks, choices which include, gasp, working from a photograph. Humbled, I feel like I am bragging when I say how very exciting it is actually have choices in pastel classes!

Getting back on track in the Spring, I took a Sara Linda Poly en plein air workshop; I worked one day in soft pastels and one in oils. Manufacturing opportunities to drive in the mountains, I painted diligently all Summer and into the Fall. To keep me busy as the weather cooled, I took the nude figure pastel class with Ginger White Hergenroeder at Workhouse Art Center, a place near to my heart, literally three miles away. Her style is unique and expanded my tool kit for painting.

Also in the Fall, I began my blog, backfilling paintings in to reflect the days they were created. I also began framing my work instead of "painting to a pile," which I'd done for years. Although I consistently felt serious as an artist, I'd never before felt the desire to share it or do anything with it. Now I'm interested in the community it brings as well, me joining six art organizations this Fall. The level of support and activity in this area is tremendous and I treasure it.

This year I worked from a trusty French Companion, a French Easel, a Mabef lightweight easel, a Sketch Box, an aluminum table easel, a Roz Bag, and, drum roll, now I have purchased an EasyL Pro, which is in transit. You'll be the first to know when I put it to use. I think I can declare my house completely full of art (and camping) supplies when it arrives.

A shutter bug, I also have over 125 folders of pictures I've taken this year, each having one to 2000 photos in them. Besides having a growing son to document, I love having the references even if I do not use them traditionally.

My goal for 2009 is to continue painting the Lorton area, both in pastels and oils. In addition to this Pohick River reflection from last week, I've painted the Barrett House Meadow locally. These are just a few of the places I've pictured and mapped for en plein air locations in this area. Specifically, I will paint the Workhouse and other prison grounds, Occoquan Regional Park, and the Gunston peninsula. And I want to do them in each medium.

I have two trips planned for the year which will help my Roz Bag earn more frequent flyer miles. I look forward to the misty Northwest and the naturally air conditioned MI Upper Peninsula.

One very personal goal involves extolling the beauty of pastels, an often under recognized medium. I believe that the Commonwealth of Virginia is much too large an area to not have a single formal or recognized pastel society. If you believe that as well, please write here or email me. Of course, I do not intend to take away from any other nearby pastel society, as they are healthy and well established. My sincere desire is to promote pastels in Virginia in galleries, with pastel educational and en plein air opportunities, with pastel exhibitions, and for pastel artists themselves.

All my best for you in the New Year. I appreciate your visits and support.

12.08.2008

Reworking the Outdoors In

The bulk of my paintings subscribe to a simple truism: what happens outside stays outside.

Sometimes, there is an exception.

I was so taken by the Redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants that I knew I must paint the area in my sketchbook. Being more of the big sky, vista type, I knew that close in paintings of tree trunks would smother me and drive me mad. We found a rest area with a view in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near where "the" 211 meets "the" 101 at the Eel River fork. I liked the foggy softness of the distance, the silhouette of the tall trees which were made smaller, and the primitive road perched on the edge of the mountain.

Frustrated, I could not convey the gray of the day, which went along with the gray of the week, with the pastels I had. After coming home and using just the new Maggie Price grays from Terry Ludwig, I was able to drastically bring down the key (brightness/saturation) to match the overcast day.



Near the Eel River Fork
5x8.5" on Wallis Belgian Mist

It went from garish to subtle, although some of the original brights peek through pleasingly.

Pastels can be blended to a degree, but they are not like oils, acrylics, or watercolors where they can be toned down easily. With tubed paints, for example, if the blue is too bright, you add a little something from the orange family (its compliment on the color wheel) to gray it out; it is my habit to do that with almost every blue I mix. With pastels, sometimes you can juxtapose the blue and orange next to each other or on top of each other to tone them down, but sometimes that won't work either.

I love the pure, vibrant color of pastels and it is wonderful to now have more tools in my chest to keep the key balanced. Pastels use exactly the same pigments as tubed paints and the trick is in being able to apply them effectively despite their non-fluid state. Pastelists make the powder work for them. And there's always another set to be had. This Maggie Price/Terry Ludwig one is a must have which would have improved this whole series of paintings under overcast skies.

12.06.2008

Central California Sketch

We're sadly on our way home by this time. It was exactly one week ago, the day after Thanksgiving.

This piece was created right where Northern California meets Southern California, so I suppose that makes it Central California.

We were cruising this cloudy day back toward LAX, but I squeezed in a painting of the beautiful view from the rest stop at Westley, which is near San Jose on "the" 5. I loved the rugged undulations of the mountains which had bumpy gray-blue skies to match.

I'm not sure if this one or the one of Monterey Wharf is my favorite from the week. Which from this collection is your preferred painting?

View from Westley, CA
5x8.5 Art Spectrum ColorFix in taupe

One more painting from up near the Redwoods is due to be posted here, but I have decided to work on it a bit in order to get the key more accurately. And I'm pleased I'll be able to do that with my new Maggie Price set of 30 grays from Terry Ludwig, one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.

12.03.2008

Lost Coast Sketches in Northern California

It was a winding 23 mile trek over King Mountain to arrive at Shelter Cove from Route 101 (or as Californians call roads, "the" 101) and the Avenue of the Giants. Shelter Cove is true to its name, a Lost Coast haven which seemed to favor campers who enjoyed their perch between a mountain and a cliff. We'd literally traversed into the light after having been in overcast conditions for two days.

After walking a little on the black sand beach, I went back up the stairs to paint at a handy picnic table near the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse, a beacon which looked short according to East Coast standards, but when added to the cliff below equaled one of East Coast stature according to the plaque. I painted less than an hour, decided I was happy with the sketch, and opted to go for a stroke limited sketch considering the appropriate pastels were still out and accessible, also considering I wasn't being beckoned back to the car just yet.

I guess my approach going from more complex to less was bassackwards, but it was fun to do. I enjoy challenging muscle memory and the second one is clearly done after the first with confident and distinct strokes. I'd begun with the idea of doing 20 strokes, then was laughed at by my companions in good natured fashion when I actually stopped counting. Regardless, it took less than five minutes. They were on to me for being sneaky and getting in a second painting, so it was time to head out.

Shelter Cove
5x8.5" White Wallis

Shelter Cove in Limited Number of Strokes
5x8.5" White Wallis

12.01.2008

Two from Southern California

We began our trip out west with a drive into the Mojave so we could tour Goldstone and see Ft. Irwin up close and personal, the latter a place which impacted our family many times over.

We arrived early for our 1pm Deep Space Network tour, so I took the chance to paint my first visions of the desert right at the Goldstone gate. Of any work attempted for the week, I wish I'd had more time for this one. I could have spent the week (or a lifetime!) here. The skies were unusually dark that day, but we did briefly get a peek of blue here and there.

Goldstone Crests
5x8.5" Wallis Belgian Mist

The next day, we trekked up to Eureka, stopping in Monterey for dinner on Fisherman's Wharf. We went to a lovely restaurant, Old Fisherman's Grotto, near dusk, as I was coming to the realization that painting trips in the winter with light fading by 5pm are not my preferred future. I was, however, able to sit at a table with a beautiful view. I guess this means it wasn't done en plein air? Oh my. Regardless, I enjoyed capturing dusk in a dusky day.

From Monterey Fisherman's Wharf
5x8.5" Cream Art Spectrum ColorFix

11.30.2008

California With a KOOOL Binder & a Roz Bag

We spent the week in California enjoying the sunny rainy weather. Not to be deterred, I got in a good bit of painting due to the cooperation of my lovely, flexible, encouraging car mates. I'll post some sketches/paintings over the coming days.

Our first opportunity at sunshine was a wonderful bit of serendipity as we crossed the King Range between the Avenue of the Giants and Shelter Cove on the Pacific to reach the Lost Coast. Nothing is better than finding a well-placed picnic table! I faced the ocean at sunset, plus there was plenty to occupy my companions between the black sand beach and the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse.

My pastels travelled well from Virginia to California, carried them on with only minor questioning at Dulles and a little more thorough inspection/swabbing at LAX. I purchased a Richeson Roz Bag with four trays for the trip, because I felt my French Companion would be too bulky and not protect my jumble of pastels well enough. Because the organized, foam-lined trays of the Roz Bag are made for plump Unison pastels and many brands I use are smaller, I cut 1/2" foam pieces to layer between each tray; you can see them stored in the bag to prevent fly aways while I painted. The Roz Bag was a bit tougher to zip being so full, but it worked well. The only thing I would criticize about the Roz bag is the empty space under the Richeson logo in the center of each tray. I've lost a couple pastels in them already and have not yet wanted to empty the entire tray to maneuver the hidden ones back out. Once I get them out, the spaces will be stuffed with cotton or foam.

This was the second location where I lucked into a well-placed picnic table. The day was chilly, breezy, and overcast, but Westley was a great spot for a rest area. One thing I realized during the week was that I am much better prepared pastel-wise to paint sunny scenes than gray, foggy, hazy ones. Guess I just need to go buy some more low key pastels.

The top of the Roz Bag conveniently fit essentials such as wipes, pencils, sharpener, stiff oil brush, small trash bags, a lid to hold working pastels, and my new 5.5x8.5" KOOOL Binder. Here I am working on Wallis Belgian Mist, but throughout the week I used a variety pack of ColorFix as well as Wallis in white. Separately, I'd brought an 8.5x11" KOOOL Binder, but didn't have the opportunity to use it and go larger. My painting sessions were less than 60 minutes, which suited the smaller size well.

I definitely didn't anticipate the opportunity to paint each day on our trip, but Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful, rain or not. Sincere thanks to our gracious host.

11.24.2008

Quick Portrait

We often have homework in Ginger White Hertgenroeder's nude pastels class, which ends today. This past week, we needed to do a complete figure and make it fit on the page. I know, it sounds easier than it is.

In about 30 minutes last evening, I captured my son as I also ignored his protests. The top half of him was more successful than than the bottom, although I did get him all on the page and fulfill the homework assignment. One thing I need to work on is consistency throughout the whole painting. I've found Ginger's style beautiful, but difficult to master. Hopefully my son will cooperate more in the future so I can practice.

At least he's happy and thinks it looks like him. It's nice to make the subject happy.

This is approximately 15x20 on Biggie paper using Van Gogh hard pastels.


Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. I should have some new en plein air sketches and paintings to share soon as I give thanks for there being landscapes that do not complain about being painted.

11.20.2008

Blocked

Saturday, I painted with NOVAL at Great Gatherings. I knew I wanted to paint a pool table and I lucked into a black-felted one with good light. I wanted to treat the balls like a still life.

As is often the case with painting en plein air, lots of people came by to chat. I met another lady who is a lab person; she's wanted to paint for quite some time, but ends up buying completed pieces covering her desired topics instead of using all the supplies she already has.

We have similar personalities and professional inclinations. I was once so perfectionistic about art, too. I can only advise to dive in there, get dirty, take classes, and find support through societies, magazines, dvds, and online forums. That's the thing about artists; I think we want to encourage everybody else to become artists, too. It's much more about practice and training than talent. My son draws a lot. If he starts on the wrong foot, he's quickly on to the next page to start over again. Embrace your false starts; it's how you learn.

Blocked (crop)
5x7 Pastelboard

11.17.2008

Changes

It's been a Fall for skies.

The last time I'd painted at Aden, it was in oil
. This time, I used pastel and set up directly across the road from the other scene.

As in Manassas Vantage, I chose to feature clouds here, too, with a muted tree line. The sky features dark and rolling clouds, but they were not rain clouds. It had changed from a cold and blustery morning to a peaceful afternoon, shadowy with a brilliant blue backdrop. The leaves were just beginning to change, so there still remained plenty of my precious green in the landscape.

As I painted, two county police cars rolled up with lights flashing, stopping the traffic behind them. The officer in the first car asked if I was drawing and I nodded that I was. He said he was required to ask per their department's policy, then they drove away. It was a wonderfully succinct encounter when compared to the chatty security guard only days before!

So rest assured and feel safe. This painting was completed under the watchful eye of Prince William County Police.



8x10
Soft Pastel on white Wallis

11.10.2008

NOVAL Happenings

Wednesday night is NOVAL's monthly meeting. Saturday is their regular "Paint Out," which will thankfully be a "Paint In."

A number of us with congregate Saturday at Great Gatherings in Gainesville to paint 11-3. Some artists might work from pictures; some might construct a still life. I haven't decided yet about topic or medium, but I am leaning toward trying some pool balls. We'll also be able to set up our own little art store, so it'd be a great place to watch art being created as well as pick up finished paintings.

I scouted some pictures of the location recently; it's a cool store carrying pool tables to shuffleboards to various card/gaming tables to outdoor furnishings. Great eye candy, indeed.

Great Gatherings Slideshow

10.31.2008

Manassas Advantage

I recently mentioned painting at Manassas Battlefield with NOVAL. It was a cold and windswept day; I braved the elements with watercolorists Lou Negri, Mary Moon, and Lorrie Herman.

Because of a few days before at Fountainhead Lake, during which my head develop as a huge shadow on my paper and pastels, I decided to ensure I'd remain 100% in the shade by choosing to paint on the dark side of a huge tree trunk. When conditions are that cold and windy, suffice it to say that next time I will seek to paint in the sun!

This piece came out exactly as I wanted. Looking incredible from a short distance, it features a glorious sky along with a ground that is complete, but does not compete. The lower portion is a little more detailed and vivid than what is pictured, but this was the best way to capture the clouds. It took some studio time plus en plein air, but I am happy with it.


8x10
Wallis Belgian Mist

10.26.2008

Paint Around MPS

Today was so much fun, minus the rain and torturous driving. Glad to have learned of their quarterly meeting, I joined the Maryland Pastel Society as an Artist and I hope to earn the juried Signature designation ASAP. There are only 45 slots in their upcoming January show at the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum in Bethesda and I am glad to join in time to be able to submit for jury.

The last portion of the meeting was a shared Paint In, so to speak. With five easels in a circle, each artist had 10 minutes to work on their reference photo with their pastels on their easels. When time was up, they slid right to the next person's work and put in 10 minutes using those materials. As it turned out, each used a different kind of sanded paper. After making their way around the loop, they each had 10 minutes to work on their own again.

The slideshow, below, begins with me drooling over some beautiful pastel sets. If you've been reading, mine are heaped together cozily in a French Companion. It'd have been fun to participate and torture others with my set up. Newbie or not to the organization, I was all ready to paint along side them.

Included artists were Jean Hirons, Deborah Maklowski, Barbara Steinacker, Jack Pardue, and Lisa Mitchell, if I got them all correctly.

Put your feet up and watch the progression of each painting...



Or see the album here:
MPS Paint Around


Be honest. Would you like to have done it?

10.20.2008

Local Exhibits

My sidebar includes links for the art blogs I read. Many are artists, but among them are also event and critic sites.

YouTube: Scott Hutchison


Recently, Daily Campello Art News highlighted Scott Hutchison and his highly personal and interactive art. I was in Scott's class a year ago when he did an installation of it at Northern Virginia Community College. The new exhibit is at Gallery 101 in Georgetown through December 5.

I see another interesting installation coming to NVCC.
The first annual Artist Teacher Exhibition will be on display from November 3-15 at the Ernst Cultural Center at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, November 5, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A total of 61 teacher-artists will be represented by 86 artworks in the exhibition.
Pared down from 300 entries via jury, the work is that of Fairfax County Public Schools' art teachers. Please support their exhibit. I cannot thank them enough for their overall positive influence on my son, who is pictured above with one of his prized PTA Reflections entries (The Work At Night, oil pastel with watercolor resist, created at home), which won progressive stages, including the county, and was second for all of Northern Virginia.

10.17.2008

Productivity Variables

Unfortunately, I haven't had too many en plein air paintings to post of late. I've created three paintings over four sessions, as I wanted to get out while the weather is still good. Alas, I have not shared them, because I've had a run of bad luck with some newly purchased materials. It's stuff that is vital to my process and I'd loved in the past, but this came from a bad lot and I didn't realize it.

Further, one evening I had a talkative audience, who I didn't know how to be firm with considering the very important extenuating circumstances. (Blast, I didn't have my Plein Air Conversation t-shirt on that day!) That doubled the loss of one session.

The last couple weeks have reinforced how precious both my materials and my time are to me. In that way, it's a good reminder to really appreciate it when it goes well.

I'll share pretty pictures of where I've been instead. Up top is from Fountainhead Lake in Fairfax Station; those mirrored reflections were just yummy. These two below are both in Lorton: Giles Run Meadow and a small clearing across the street from the Barrett House, which actually is in a restricted zone, although I did get permission to paint there afterward if I parked at the Barrett House. I love how the brownish weeds turn reddish purple orchidy with pink highlights in the setting sun.

I will go back to these spots and try them all again.

Check out the plein air slideshow and map link in the sidebar to find any locations I go to paint.

For anyone local, I'll be painting with NOVAL at the Manassas Battlefield Visitor's Center beginning around 9:30 tomorrow.

10.15.2008

Making a French Companion Friendly

Artists with equipment like french easels also maintain a personal supply of nuts, screws, and bolts. As I mentioned before, I'm a MacGuyver type, so it suits me.

When I purchased my Richeson French Companion, I expected it to be good enough on its own if a bit of foam were added. Instead, I immediately learned that the piano hinges would bend, allowing the case to angle open at the bottom. Perhaps if the French Companion is carrying tubes of oils, it would not matter. When it is carrying loose pastels, the dozens of pieces settle to the bottom and wreck havoc on organization.

To correct the gap between the bottom and top, I decided to add latches on the bottom. It was very difficult finding hardware and these were difficult to install on this hard oak. As you can tell, this doesn't solve the complete problem, as it'll still pop open on one side sometimes.

I have a dam along the back/bottom/rear of the case, so that nothing falls out. In this photo, one is upright and one curls back over the pastels. The cat is gratitutious.
To counter the added bulk of the latches on the bottom, in order that the box would still stand upright like a briefcase, I added four knobs of my own creation. I tried using regular small knobs, but they would not screw into the oak, so I used two sizes of washers and threaded them onto wood screws.
Further, because the front lip opens with a piano hinge, I had to create a dam of foam to keep the pastels from rolling off the edge.

This was my first day working en plein air. See the pretty white foam! I lost a number of pastels to the concrete floor of that gazebo in Havre de Grace due to them rolling off the front.
This is with the dam in place, and again, with the front flipped open. It also shows the two layers of foam underneath the pastels.
Here the front piano hinge is closed and this shows the protective foam layers on top, with the lower one notched out to accommodate the dam, which is two foam layers.
All in all, I find the French Companion very workable, although relatively simple alterations were necessary. What do you find works for you?

10.09.2008

Hands and Feet

Last week I began a pastels class featuring the nude form. I'd only done pastel portrait work in the past, never the figure. I chose it because I prefer to work from life and it's a good option as the weather gets colder.

The class is at the new Workhouse Art Center and the instructor is a Floridian relatively new to this area. She was an instructor at Ringling and is the perfect clown herself.

Her means of painting is different than I'd previously encountered and it is unique to her teaching. Doing landscapes en plein air, I use sanded paper and soft pastels of varying degrees of hardness, using one on top of the other to blend them. Ginger White Hertgenroeder (see another example) recommends hard pastels, like NuPastel, or medium ones, like Rembrandt, to dither out a form onto flat drawing paper, layering these more resistant pastels and blending them with each other. She uses the side, particularly the corner of square ones, to gradually etch out the figure. This method makes finding the proper angle a desirable process which causes the entire figure seem to shimmer with movement.

Here's my example from class, a study from a larger portrait of the model's bent leg.



The next day, as I was stuck waiting for routine car maintenance, I painted my foot and hand several times.

This example is like the first, which only used shades of brown, beginning light to dark. Unlike the first which used pastels from my very, very hard set of square Van Goghs, these below are with Rembrandts.



The next two go beyond the brown palette and inch toward Ginger's palette for the fair skinned. Begin with your lightest of three browns and work to your darkest. Work in pink and progress to blue, which blends together to create purple in places. Work in green sparingly and get shadows and definition with browns. Keep the pinks and greens apart, as they'll make mud. Scrub in a layer of white over all of it to further blend the other colors and begin again to further define as needed.






This example uses three values of blue along with white.


It's a fun method and I especially like chiseling out the form instead of drawing, erasing, and refining.

In summation, however, I want to make two points. First, I must admit that it is hilarious to me to paint the hand or foot of a nude person. Second, I did not find a need to be nude when I painted my own hand and foot.

You'd better be laughing.

10.01.2008

Stroke Limit Exercise

Okay, first get a feel for the day.






Then watch your instructor paint and be in awe of the atmospheric results.


Start her recommended exercise: simplify and record the colors and values of the scene in 20 strokes. Work small. This is a 4x6 white Pastelboard.


Think about doing the same exercise in the 50 stroke option, but choose instead to tackle that sky on your own. This is 8x10 Pastelboard, probably gray.

9.24.2008

Art on the Go

In addition to my FAQ in Back, I will periodically share methods to my madness. Today, it's a few painting supplies for outdoors. My version is specific to a few items. Check out Jennifer Young for the whole scoop.

To the left is my pastel set up, which I discuss below. It's placed here because it is so pretty.

The first order of business today is oils. I covet would like a fancy outdoor pochade, essentially a wooden cigar box on a tripod. There are a couple that I'd be interested in purchasing and I'll compare them for you.

The 10x12 Bitterroot Lite by Alla Prima is $239 and 4lbs. The 10x12 Butterroot is $289 and 6lb4oz, with an integrated carrier and optional extender. The 11x14 Yellowstone is 7lb and $310. I have not seen these babies in action, but the website has great videos. They don't look made, they look engineered.

I have seen the Easyl brand in action, though, particularly in classes and workshops with Sara Linda Poly; both she and some of her students use them. I believe she uses their Lite, which is 10x12, 3lb6oz, and $229, to include the tripod, or their 11x14 , 4lb9oz Pro at $249. It carries two paintings in the lid and she uses Raymar for most of her wet carrying needs. Easyl has sizes from 8x10 all the way up to 12x16 and, like those from Alla Prima, they can hold much larger pieces while painting.

Along with her finished product, here are a couple videos of Sara with her Easyl in use.

video video

In the mean time, before I take the dive because there's always a new and better system on the horizon, I have used a French easel for several years; it was a very thoughtful gift. However, it is now verging on defunct, wood cracking, losing too many screws and thumbscrews. If you saw Paul Reuther's well-loved easel, for which he brings wood glue and clamps to the field each time to nurse it, you'd consider me prissy in my evaluation of my easel.

This is my easel in full regalia. Because I am a MacGuyver type, I jimmied with cable ties and did everything I could to keep that umbrella in place. A gust tumbled it all over, so it is now spattered with oil and grass stains. Umbrellas are trying to attach and to keep positioned. It's best to have the canvas and the paints in the shade, but it's tough to get those, plus the artist, evenly shaded for long.

Hmm, maybe that tumble is when my easel cracked?

The picture to the right is Tanner's Ridge and my limping easel. Because of the crack and a loose screw, it collapsing the next day made me have to do some touch ups on a painting victim. I want to move on to avoid that risk again.

As you can see, I was bunjied down this day; it was the worst gusts I had encountered. See how I like to use the rear of the car as an umbrella? A car is merely an expensive umbrella and painting carrier. Setting up like this is a good way to start the day, although it never stays that way long. Funny thing, that sun moving.

I use a Masterson tray for my palette. Add to that disposable palette paper. Tres gauche. But the space! The Masterson tray is 12x16 and I use nearly every inch, plus it doubles as a brush rest. How on earth could I go down to the 10x12 surface of a pochade? Thoughts?

Since the Disaster at Tanner's Ridge (News at 11), I pulled out a Mabef easel I'd purchased and rejected. Well, when you finally put the thing together correctly, you'll like it. Just sayin'. I got mine from Dakota and they call it a Tripod Field Easel. Not only is it lovely wood and hardware, it is light. I've seen it accompanying a folding chair together inside the same bag, very portable, but I do want to rig a shoulder strap to it somehow.

In the past for pastels plein air and for classes, I used an ArtComber from Jerry's to haul supplies and to sit on once there. It's essentially a canvas granny shopping cart. Painting from my car, I haven't needed it lately, but I may pull it out for my class beginning next week, because I'll bring several sets of pastels in addition to my plein air monster set, which began as that lovely color-coordinated French Companion pictured. My Companion is now a good bit fuller, a lot more disheveled, and very much loved. In this and the first photo, notice the Koh-I-Noor Giaconda Pastel Pencil Set of 48 on the right. It stores perfectly in the French Companion's lid.

If you get an ArtComber, take good care of the wheels. It's not built for the Baha. I was quite gentle for some time, until I yanked it out the front door and down the step on the way to Poly's workshop this summer. Coincidentally, another artist there had one, asked me how I liked it (Great!), then mentioned that her wheels are wonky, won't stay on. Lo and behold, I'd broken the interior wheel supports that morning and mine is now wonky, too, but still usable with adjustments. [ETA: my version and this artist's were from a few years ago. I recently saw a new acquisition and it looked to have different wheels that wouldn't do this.]

When I go out in a simple fashion, I'll grab my French Companion, my tripod stool with a shoulder strap, and a KOOOL Binder to go light. Enlarge the easel and ArtComber picture, above, to see a KOOOL Binder. I sit with the French Companion on my lap and hold the binder. I do not use easels for pastels when I am using a binder, because they provide a hard backing and are easy to manipulate. I think they add speed.

This Saturday from 11 to 5 or so (depending on how my son holds up), I'll be painting with NOVAL in Historic Leesburg with Fall Into the Arts. We'll be set up across from Gallery 222 on the Town Green. Here's hoping for no rain and some angle on a big sky.