Throwback Thursday Art

While I have been busy working on my latest book project, I come up for air every few days to post here and at Facebook. Today I posted two events from my past. The first is from 1974; the second is from 1984.

It is fun, interesting, and painful to look at works from the past. But it also reminds me of the arduous work I have done to get this far.

The first illustration below is a colored pencil drawing from high school. I was 17, hooked on surrealism, and everything I drew had a fantasy dreamscape look to it. My mom covered it with plastic wrap and kept it hung in the kitchen, though it clashed with her kitchen knickknacks and décor.

Colored pencil on paper, 1974

Ten years later, I was drawing wildlife. But I wanted to paint, so I bought watercolor and gouache paints and set about learning to illustrate the deer and wildlife in my backyard. This is one of my earliest attempts.

Watercolor and gouache on paper, 1984

In 1984, I was also developing my talents as a cartoonist. While going to Art Instruction Schools, I studied cartooning under Charles Schulz, an alumnus of the school and the creator of Peanuts. The illustration below was my final assignment for that class.

Pen and ink on paperboard, 1984

Painting Alla Prima, Part 1 of 2

Many years ago, I taught wildlife and landscape painting classes. This is a lesson plan from those classes.

Alla prima is an Italian expression that translates into “at the first try.” The technique of alla prima is a wet-on-wet direct method of painting that completes the painting in a single session, without previous preparation or later stages. TV artist Bob Ross paints alla prima.

The Impressionists introduced the technique of direct painting; however, Rubens used an alla prima style when he mixed his colors directly on the canvas itself without waiting for the paints to dry. The Impressionists painted their landscapes in a single session taking only three or four hours to begin and finish a picture. They tried to capture the impression of the moment by painting directly. They did not allow themselves to go back over what had already been done.

As when using any painting method, ask “Why am I painting this picture?” as you prepare to paint alla prima. If you have no answer, then you’re not ready to paint that picture. When you are ready, sketch in the drawing with a round bristle brush loaded with a mixture of blue and umber thinned with turpentine. If you’re using water-based oils or acrylics, thin your colors with water. Simplify the scene’s complexity by sketching in the main elements. Once the initial drawing is done, it’s now a question of filling in the spaces with color.

Oak Sketch Oil on canvas board
Oak Sketch
Oil on canvas board

Establish the mood first, before worrying about creating depth. The mood is determined by light, so observe the color of light, then consider how to alter that color to create elements in deep space.

What color is the lightest light? A white shirt drenched in warm lamplight may be pink, orange or slightly yellow—not pure white, as you might think. Never use pure white, but white with a small amount of color in it.

Waterfall Study Oil on canvas board
Waterfall Study
Oil on canvas board

What is the darkest dark? What color is it? How dark is it? Darks have light in them, so double-check your first impression. Put the lights in later.

Pick the easiest color to get right without a lot of mixing. If an object is the same color as Cerulean Blue straight from the tube, that is easy. To check a rich, bright color in nature, hold up a pure color, such as Cadmium Red Light, on the brush. Compare how lighter or less brilliant that color may actually be. When it looks right, put it on your canvas.

Establish shadow patterns. It’s easier to control light colors by first placing in all the shadow shapes accurately. When they’re in the right place, this step is done. Laying in the shadows first guarantees clean color throughout.

Cow and landscape study, 1990; oil on canvas board
Cow and landscape study, 1990; oil on canvas

Lay in the lights. Keep all the colors of the light family lighter than the shadow shapes. Lay them down flatly and simply. Cover the whole canvas while thinking about shapes. Step away and recheck your color choices. Don’t hurry to produce a finished painting.

See objects in terms of simple shapes. Focus on shapes, not things. Think of your paintings as mosaics of interlocking shapes, some larger, some smaller, but all related. Make all shapes interesting and pay special attention to negative shapes. Start with flat silhouettes of color.

Describe the effect of light on forms. Use hard and soft edges to convey the character and solidity of objects. Start your painting by keeping edges soft.  Hard edges attract the eye, so keep shapes and edges loose and fluid in the early stages.

All surfaces reflect color on any surfaces facing the light’s reflection. This is called reflected light and reflected color, and we see it when the blue sky reflects off water and snow, as well as when green grass reflects from the base of a white house.

A study from the 1990s; oil on canvas board
A study from the 1990s; oil on canvas board

Vree’s Journal Entry 1 [fiction]


My name is Verawenda Renee Erickson. I am 15. My nickname Vree comes from my initials VRE. I am named after my maternal great-grandmother, Verawenda Myers. My middle name Renee is my maternal grandmother’s middle name.

I live with my mom and dad on Myers Ridge, in Ridgewood PA. Lightning struck me and now I see things no one else can.

I sometimes have difficulty remembering past events from my childhood. When I’m tired or really stressed, it’s difficult for me to know if I’m remembering real events, dreams, or plots from TV shows, movies, or books.

Though I try to hide it from others, my body emits white light when I’m anxious or excited. Crazy, I know. People are going to see it and think I’m a freak.

Myers Ridge:

Myers Ridge sits southwest of Ridgewood, the town I go to school at. Did I tell you my mom is a teacher there? Eighth grade science.

Myers Ridge is mostly old farmland with a few farms in operation, though farming is almost a vanished way of life. Second growth woods and fields fill much of the landscape. This is rural country life where lawnmowers are big and loud, tractors plow fields and harvest crops, small flower and vegetable gardens grow in every yard, and barbecues and lemonade are part of backyard activity, as well as swimming in outdoor pools. There’s also backyard camping, hiking in woods, and riding horses in summer. In winter, there’s deer hunting, plowing and shoveling snow, and sleds and snowmobiles to ride.

A Little More About Me:

I have straight, shoulder length blonde hair that I usually part in the middle. Mom won’t let me get a pixie cut. I’d really like short hair so it’d be easier to dry when I’m in a hurry to be somewhere. My eyes are listed on my birth announcement and student identification as green, but they are really blue-green and gray with amber flecks in them. Some days they are bluer, some days greener—the blue stands out if I wear white clothing, and the green stands out if I wear dark clothing. I am 5’ 3” tall and weigh around 85-90 pounds.

Why Did I Start A Journal?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m in an alternate reality. If so, it could explain why my skin glows and why I see things no one else sees. Like ghosts. What would you do if you found out you can see and hear and do paranormal things that most other people cannot? I need to record these things and prove that I’m not crazy. Being a teenage girl is hard enough. Your body goes through physical changes that make you look less like a teenager and more like a woman. And mine makes me look like a freak of nature, glowing in the dark. So I act as if nothing is wrong or different with me. But I secretly think about the past when I was innocent of the bad things in life, and I dream of a future where everything turns out right.

That’s all I want: to be normal again.

Journal Entry 2



A Possible Book Cover [book news]

Happy Fourth of July time of year to my American readers! I’m making a quick touchdown here before I zoom off again into my active imagination.

If you follow me at Facebook (sorry Google+ fans—I have been absent there for a while), you know I spent a full day (right up to midnight) last week working on a new cover for my Night of the Hellhounds novel (or mini-novel at around 200 pages). I went with an old-time dime-store look and feel. And the fonts mimic the ones used in the old King Arthur storybooks from my childhood.

Tentative Cover
Tentative Cover

I spent a lot of time working on the Rottweiler’s mouth. I tried to make it look like it was exhaling an angry bark, which when you watch dogs bark on film in slow motion, their cheeks billow out just before their jaws snap shut. I think I captured it well enough. And those vampire-like fangs look quite menacing.

Missing from the hellhound are its red eyes. I’m hoping for enough time to add them. But I can manage without them if I don’t have time.

Now it’s time to recheck my edits before I send it to my beta readers for another read through. They’re good at catching things I miss. I owe them a lot more than pizza, a thank-you, and a free copy of the final book.

Again: Happy Fourth of July! And to my writer friends working on books of their own:

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