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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thank you with a Twist

'Simple Pleasure'         8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
enter to win this original pastel....details below

The touch of a loved one. A kiss from a favorite pet. The sight of a beautiful place. There is not much else to compare to the sights, sounds, smells of your happy place. These things soothe the soul. I rank art right up at the top of my list of things that soothe my soul. Making art, talking about art, reading about art and of course.....looking at art.

I have a few pieces of original art in my home. Paintings from favorite artists that I have collected or traded when the opportunity arose. These paintings are treasures. I never tire of looking at them. I always seem to see something new when I glance at them. I learn from them and they make me smile.

This year I once again would like to make the gift of art more affordable. Since I am not affiliated with any galleries I am able to set my own prices and while it is sometimes frowned upon in the art world I am going to have a sale! This is a sale to say THANK YOU and it is a sale with a with a fun twist.

I have put together a collection of my original paintings of all sizes and I will be offering them at 50% off regular price. The sale prices will be available until midnight on Monday December 4th.

HOW: Visit my Etsy shop Karenmargulisfineart.  CLICK HERE FOR SALE  Sale prices are already marked.

BONUS TWIST:  Everyone who makes a purchase during the sale will be entered into a drawing to win the  8x10 original marsh painting at the top of today's post. Winner will be selected and notified by email next week.

visit my etsy shop to view sale paintings ALL PRICES ARE MARKED. NO COUPON NECESSARY

I would love for these paintings to have good homes and spread joy. Thank you for having a look and for taking time to read my blog!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Grateful Artist: 10 Things I am Thankful For

'Thankful'           18x24       pastel       ©Karen Margulis

I have much to be thankful for. Family, good friends, good health and much more.   Being a full time artist has provided me with a whole new set of things to be thankful for.  I'd like to share 10 of them with you.
  1. The gift of sensitivity.  I am grateful for the ability to look at the world in a different way. As I have developed as an artist so has my eye and sensitivity to subtle beauty.  I not only notice the obvious beauty like a fiery sunset, but I notice the simple things like a shaft of warm light across a meadow.
  2. My artist friends.  I love all of my friends but there is a special bond I share with my fellow artists. We just see things in a different way. Many of my artists friends were the 'different' ones in their family so when we get together and share so many things in common it is a great feeling. I love my artist friends!
  3. Art Supplies!  We love them and we need them to create. We probably don't need as many supplies as we crave (cavemen made art with burnt sticks)  But part of the fun of creating art is to try new supplies.  And who can resist a new box of gorgeous pastels!
  4. Travel.  I have always had wanderlust but being an artist gives me opportunities to travel. Trips to conventions, workshops and art events take me to new places to discover.  I am grateful for my good friends who love to travel and for the trips we take together. I am also thankful for the opportunity to travel and share the wonderful world of pastels with new friends around the world!
  5. Collectors.  I approach my art by painting the subjects that I love but when a painting connects with someone and they are moved to have it hang in their home....there is no greater feeling of satisfaction. I am grateful for the people who enjoy my work.
  6. The internet.  Even though artists struggle with balancing time online with painting time, I am grateful for the ability to connect with so many artists and art lovers online.  Being an artist can often be a lonely endeavor and having an online community to share work and ideas has been invaluable to me. Being active on social media has led to many connections and new friendships! 
  7. Enjoying my Day Job.  I am grateful for being able to work as an artist full time. I wake up every morning with a spark of excitement for the day. I can't wait to go down into the studio and go to work every day!
  8. Magic.  I am grateful for the chance to create something from nothing. It may not always be a success but just having the opportunity to turn a blank canvas into something.
  9. Books.  I love books, especially art books.  Being an artist gives me a good excuse to collect books. I need them. I need them for instruction and for inspiration. I think I'll buy a new book today!
  10. Sharing. I love to learn so I am grateful for the opportunities to learn from other artists but I learn just as much from sharing what i've learned with others. I love teaching and sharing on my blog and I appreciate all of you who visit every day to see what I have to share!

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Just in case you want to get a head start on your holiday shopping.....
I am thankful for my blog readers and all of those who have purchased a painting or a lesson or perhaps attended one of my classes. To show my appreciation I am offering the opportunity to choose one of my paintings at a 50% discount. An original work of art is a special gift for someone special (including yourself!)  Visit my Etsy shop and any painting in the Holiday Sale Shop Section is 50% off for one week only. Sale prices are marked! Here is the direct link. www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Words of Wisdom for Artists: A Post from the Archives

'Summer Love'         9x12       pastel         ©Karen Margulis
My house is full of the joy and laughter of my children and grandchildren. I had a minute go into the studio to check on my email so I decided to share a blog post from the archives. I was scrolling through some old posts and this one stood out. I hope you enjoy these words of wisdom!

I didn't have an answer right away. My head was too full of inspiration and I couldn't choose just one thing to share. But as I thought about everything I had learned from my weekend as a volunteer at Richard McKinley's workshop for the Southeastern Pastel Society, one thing kept cropping up. It was something Richard repeated several times. I realized that it was the key! It was a single word which means so much. I will go as far to say that it is the MAGIC WORD for artists.

We all want to be the best artists possible.  We may have different goals but we all want to improve and grow. We want to get better! We want our paintings to speak...to express what is inside of us. Most of us want to move beyond having technical proficiency and create paintings that move others.  In order to do this we need the magic word....We need to give ourselves PERMISSION.

Watercolor underpainting on white Wallis paper

Permission. It's simple really but hard to do sometimes. We need to give ourselves permission to try things, to experiment with techniques, with color, with design. We need to give ourselves permission to play. We learn the most when we are having fun and letting go. We need to give ourselves permission to move away from the reference photo....we don't need to be literal to the scene. It's OK to let the painting lead us in a different direction. Let it happen! Don't hold back!

I love that Richard reminds us that we can give ourselves permission to think outside of the box and to follow our own voices. We need to enjoy the journey and with time and practice it will all fall into place.

2.5 x 3.5 inch color study

I decided to continue my exploration of this familiar subject and interpret it in a new way. I printed my reference photo in black and white so I could create a new mood with cooler colors. My previous painting was a warm sunset mood. For this painting I did a watercolor underpainting on white paper. I took the time to do a small color study to test out my color ideas. I gave myself PERMISSION to play and explore this scene in a new way.

black and white reference photo

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Do You have any Unfinished Paintings?

'Nature's Peace'        8x10       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $145

We all have a few. I call them UFOs. Unfinished Objects. Paintings that were started but never finished. Maybe we got frustrated. Maybe we were just bored or something else was more inspiring. Whatever the reason the UFOs ended up in a pile somewhere. After awhile they need to be dealt with. They are taking up valuable space. Do we finish them or recycle the paper?

My UFO pile
Today I decided to get ahead of the pile by working on some of the demos from my recent workshop in Michigan. I took one out and evaluated it. It had good bones but was definitely needing some refinements.

One of my unfinished demos
I liked the colors and I was happy with the depth I had created. I needed to add some more detail and light to the shrubby trees and I needed to add texture and detail to the foreground. I used my go-to technique of spraying some workable fixative. I use Blair low odor fixative. This fixes the pastel in place allowing me to add more layers.

Working on the trees and spraying the foreground to prep for texture

Tip: Start your own UFO pile. Don't throw away unfinished paintings. Store them flat and out of sight. Put them in a box under a bed if you are short on space. Let them sit for awhile. When you are looking for a painting idea....revisit these UFOs and choose one to work on. You will undoubtably have new ideas and insight which you will apply to the painting. It is a great learning experience. 

I know there are paintings that you just need to throw away....but if you are at all on the fence do yourself a favor and put them in your UFO pile. You will learn from them when the time is right!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How to Try a New Medium without Fear

'Reimagination'          30x30    acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas         ©Karen Margulis

The results really didn't matter. And that was the key. I unlocked something that I am so excited about and can't wait to try again. All because THE RESULTS DIDN'T MATTER!

The backstory: I bought some square gallery wrapped canvas at a great sale a few years ago. I haven't touched them. (except for one unsuccessful attempt) I thought it would be fun to do some loose and fun acrylic paintings. But I don't have much experience with acrylics. I know that I will only get better at a medium if I PRACTICE. But I was afraid to even try. Paint is expensive. Canvas is expensive. What if I make a mess? What if the results are awful? I was filled with Fear!

Fast forward to last week. I was redecorating the bedrooms. New, floors, fresh paint, new bedding. I needed some new artwork for the walls and I needed it fast.  I wanted a neutral palette of grays and browns. I had several jars of sample paint colors left over from choosing paint for the walls. These would be perfect for my little experiment. The paint was cheap. I had the canvas and the results really didn't matter. It was just going to be a fun experiment. I had removed the biggest barrier to starting a new medium.....I was no longer afraid to try.

The Results and the rest of the story:  I had a blast slinging the paint on the canvas and letting it drip. Since the paint was cheap I was generous and laid it on thick with a cheap brush. I thought it would be fun to loosely suggest some Queen Anne's Lace flowers. It was so much fun and the result was interesting. My daughter loved it. I wasn't so sure. I set it aside thinking I wouldn't use it after all but happy that I had fun with it.

Yesterday though I had a thought. What if I used this painting as the UNDERPAINTING for a more representational version of QA Lace with some more color? Out came the painting and my stash of acrylics. The thick and drippy painting was perfect for my new vision! I only spent about 30 minutes refining some shapes and adding color before I was satisfied. Now I was excited!

What I learned from this experience:

  • Changing my attitude and approach when trying something unfamiliar made it less scary. As soon as I took on this 'What If' attitude I let go of any pressure to make something good and I just had fun.
  • Even if materials are expensive most of the time they can be reused and reimagined. I didn't waste a good gallery wrapped canvas when I didn't care for my first attempt. I reimagined it into something I did like.
  • Don't put off trying something new. You never know what you might discover.
I'm ready to dig out the other canvases and try some more!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Try This to Store and Share Pastel Paintings

'Pretty in Pink'        2.5 x 3.5      pastel      ©Karen Margulis
TODAY ONLY FRIDAY 11/17/17!  Clearbags.com Sale 15% off bags! Use coupon code CLEARFRIDAY

 It's a Daily Painter Dilemma.  How will I  decide what paintings to share and which to retire to the pile?  I paint just about everyday so that adds up to a lot of paintings. Sure some are just small studies and some have  been sold and some just aren't up to par.... but that still leaves quite a few paintings that need to be organized.

I certainly don't want to frame them all. The cost wouldn't be feasible. But I would like some paintings  available for easy viewing by studio visitors or at my workshops. How do I keep the pastel protected while still allowing for the painting to be handled?

I need  a good compromise! I think I found one.  A way to display unframed pastels while keeping them protected...and no frames are needed!

Crystal Clear Bags to the rescue!

A painting with it's foamcore and clearbag package
I've actually used this method of displaying pastels for years. And I can vouch that paintings left in the bags for years are no worse for wear. Here is what I do:
  • Order a selection of Crystal Clear bags to fit your painting sizes. I usually allow for a bag slightly larger than my painting size so it fit's snugly.  What are Crystal Clear bags? They are high quality clear bags with an adhesive flap seal. They are acid free and archival safe. They come in an huge array of sizes. I order mine from clearbags.com
  • Cut a piece of foam core the size of the painting. Slip this piece of foamcore into the bag.
  • Slip the painting into the bag. The foam core backing will provide support. Since it fits snugly in the bag there is no need to tape the painting to the board. Also the snug fir means the painitng won't move around and get smudged.
  • I take an extra step and include a preprinted slip of paper with my contact information and care instructions. I suggest that the bag be cut off and pulled away from the painting. You can take the painting out without cutting the bag if you are careful.
Yes you do get some residual pastel dust on the inside of the bag but it isn't enough to make a difference. The key is to make sure the painting and foamcore fit snugly inside the bag. You do not want the painting to be able to slide around.

To give you an idea I order bag B75 for my 5x7 paintings. They measure 5 7/16 x 7 1/4
Here is the list of the bags I recently ordered:

B75 for 5x7
B86 for 6x8
B811 for 8x10
B1012 for 9x12
B11 for 11x14

(I ordered 2.5 x.3.5 inch bags for my minis but I didn't remember to allow room for the foamcore so they are too small!)

My new stash pf clear bags!

A basket full of older 5x7 pastel paintings
**** I know this blog post may come too late for many of you but they bags are still a good deal even without the discount!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Fun Tip for Suggesting Detail in a Painting

'Autumn Glory'         pastel     2.5 x 3.5    ©Karen Margulis
available $25 email for details
 It is one of hardest thing to do for some of us. Getting away from the tendency to put in every detail in a paining. I hear it often.....'How can I learn to SUGGEST detail"  "I don't want to paint every leaf on the tree!" The first step it awareness. If you know you have a tendency towards putting in too much detail and information in a painting that's a start!  There are many things you can do to move away from detail and into the area of suggestion. I'll share a fun idea in today's post.

Paint something tiny!

Last week I focused my blog posts on painting mini pastels....paintings that are 2.5x3.5 inches. I have heard from some of you that you love minis and some of you have been trying them. I hope to convince more of you on the value of making minis a part of your painting practice.

All set up and ready to paint (and make a video)
While it is true that you can paint detail in a small format it can help you move to more suggestion if you let it.

  • Don't use pastel pencils or even too many hard thin pastels. They are easy for detail which you want to avoid!
  • Use your big pastels for larger marks. I use both full size pastels as well as smaller leftover bits. (see my Box of Bits in the photo)
  • Practice making marks on small paper. The more you do the easier it will be to manipulate a pastel in a small space.
  • Start the painting with big simple shapes. Then decide where you will add a touch of detail.
  • Add a few spots of detail....not everywhere!!! The eye will fill in the rest.

Display your minis in frames or use tiny easels
Have fun painting minis!  If you are a patron of my Patreon page I just posted a new video all about painting minis. I paint the mini shown below in the video. See the video here www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

'For the Love of Texas'        2.5 x 3.5     pastel    
available $25 email for details

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sometimes You Just Have to Go for the Whimsical

'Joyful'            16x20           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
I don't know what has come over me. I am into hot pink lately. I am redecorating the bedrooms and for some reason I was drawn to a hot pink shag area rug on our recent Ikea run. I bought it but I am on the fence. Will it be too much?  Today I decided to just go with it. Let there be hot pink! And I took out my pink pastels. 

I don't usually paint for my own home although I do have my paintings hanging in my studio. But I needed some art for our newly painted walls and I had the perfect frame for the guest room. My daily painting would be something for the guest room. I knew I wanted hot pink and something fun and whimsical. Certainly not my usual style and colors but sometimes it's OK to just let go and have some fun!

my photo inspiration
I knew I had just the photo to inspire my painting. This fun bouquet came from my good friend's summer garden. I haven't painted it yet but it had just the right type of fun flowers for my idea.

Drawing with charcoal
I decided to use a piece of white Canson Mi-Teintes paper because I knew I didn't need to use many layers of pastel. The white would help my colors look bright. I took out a piece of vine charcoal to do my drawing. I knew it would force me to be loose and bold. It did the trick. I finished the painting with bold 'shouting' strokes and minimal layers. It was a lot of fun and it will be a fun addition to the guest room!

Framed and ready for the guest room!

My Thankful Event is in full swing with new work added today. www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart
Use coupon code THANKFUL50 at checkout.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Do You Listen To Your Paintings?

'Beautiful Dreamers'           20x29            pastel        ©Karen Margulis
The painting started to speak. I ignored it at first. After all I had a plan. I didn't intend to change it. But the painting persisted. It spoke louder. And louder. I put down my pastel and took a step back. Maybe I should listen. I could always go back to my original plan if it didn't work out. And in the end I was very happy that I had listened. 

Do you listen when your painting talks? What does that even mean? It isn't just some Artsy talk. It is real.  Your painting is talking when you find the voice in your head asking questions such as "What if I.......(fill in the blank) or "Should I just......(fill in the blank)  When you find yourself asking these types of questions it is your painting pushing you in a different direction. Call it a gut feeling or intuition. The questions are the result of your experience guiding you suggested by what is happening on your painting. 

When you listen to your painting (your gut) you either end up with something interesting or a failed experiment. But since you never know where it will lead you it certainly doesn't hurt to try. Remember it is only paper. 

A big piece of yellow Canson Touch sanded paper 
 Today I listened. I was painting a large 20x29 painting . It is for my newly refreshed bedroom. I want to use some of my Queen Annes Lace paintings from Ireland. I already had two smaller paintings framed and wanted a large focal painting.  I selected a small study for inspiration. My intention was to simply enlarge the small study....same composition and colors.

The painting had other ideas. I decided to listen and the result was something that is just right!

My inspiration was a 6x8 study
Would you like to see the step by step photo demo of this painting? It is available on my Patreon page. Join for just $4 a month  for weekly demos, exercises and more! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

After blocking in with darks and yellows

The finished painting

Sunday, November 12, 2017

No Time to Paint? Take a Discovery Walk

Photo Collage from a Quick Morning Discovery Walk
It's been a busy week. But a very very rewarding week. I had the honor of teaching two workshops with Artensity Art Workshops in Ann Arbor Michigan. Debra Zamperla was my fantastic coordinator and hostess. It couldn't have been better. Both the venue and the groups of artists were wonderful. I had two different groups for a three and two day workshop. The artists were all  talented and hard working and most of all were willing to let go and have fun!

Demo paintings from my underpainting workshop
 I was so busy though that I didn't see any of Ann Arbor expect along the route from the hotel to the workshop venue. I was feeling a bit sad to have visited a place and not really experienced it so on the morning of my departure I bundled up and went for a quick walk around  the hotel grounds.
I wasn't planning on taking any photos but I was glad to have my phone with me when I saw the morning light and how it made even the mundane stuff in a parking lot look beautiful.

Beauty is Everywhere

I then continued my work with a purpose. It had become a Discovery Walk. I changed my focus and began to look for simple beauty. Light on a seed pod. A bit of snow around an evergreen. The light on a pile of yellow leaves. I used my phone to snap some photos. Simple things that I had overlooked took on a new meaning. I had discovered beauty in a parking lot and now I have material for future paintings and left feeling like I got to know a small corner of the town.

A few demos from a busy week

Hard working artists
Try This: This little Discovery Walk only took a few minutes but I found that my senses were sharpened  and was filled with inspiration. The next time you are too busy to be creative or too busy to paint.....take a camera or your phone and go for a discovery walk in your neighborhood. What beauty have you overlooked?

Italy Anyone?  Artenisty also runs workshop in Italy. I am considering a possible workshop in Italy and wondered if there is interest in taking a workshop withm me in Florence September 2018. No plans yet but if it sounds intriguing let me know! karenmargulis@gmail.com

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inspiration of the Day

'Beauty is Everywhere'         6x6       pastel         ©Karen Margulis

It is a common complaint. Finding something to paint is a stumbling block for many. Before I give my two cents on this topic I will share a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
 This quote strikes a chord with me as I am always reminding myself and my students that beauty is everywhere. We should be able to find something that touches us and inspires us wherever we look. We have to approach our search for inspiration with the mindset that there is beauty in everything. We only need to be open to it....to really SEE it. It isn't enough to just look around us. We need to feel the beauty and be sensitive to it.

I don't use beautiful and perfect reference photos for my paintings. I use small and dark photos. (bad photos) This allows me to pull out the beauty that I see inside of my mind and put it into the painting. I have discovered that  bad photos lead to my best paintings. My favorite places to paint are not the most spectacular. They possess a quiet and simple beauty that speaks to me because I am open to them.

Dry wash underpainting on white sanded paper
The next time you are searching for painting inspiration remember Emerson's words. Beauty is there. We just have to have it in our hearts so that we can see it and then paint it!

I have traveled and painted finding inspiration wherever I went. I want to share my vision with you. It is the time of sharing and being thankful so I am once again offering my painting at 50% off during my Thankful Event. Visit my etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart
to see the paintings and use the coupon code THANKFUL50 when you check out to get the discount. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Six Easy Steps to a Mini Pastel Painting

'Morning on the Marsh'             2.5 x 3.5           pastel              ©Karen Margulis
Have I convinced you yet? Have you tried painting a mini? Mini Week continues with a look at a simple way to paint small. There are so many ways to paint with pastels. There are hard pastels, soft pastels, Pan pastels, pastel pencils.....anything goes. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes I just want a simple method. This is a quick look at my favorite method ....6 Steps to a Mini. 

1. Quick light drawing of the big shapes with pencil.

2. Block in the dark shapes.

3. Block in the light shapes.

4. Block in the most intense color

5. Fill in the rest of the paper in a middle value color.

6. Continue developing the painting and clarifying the focal area.

This is a quick look at this technique. It is a helpful way to simplify a busy reference photo and it works for any subject. I painted a snowman for my class showing them how this method still works!  If you would like to see it in more detail you might like to explore my pdf demo available on Etsy.