Thursday, January 30, 2014

Practicing Alla Prima


Party of Five  © 2014 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
6 x 6 inches • oil on GessobordTM
private collection • Seminole, Florida

After doing some work on a larger daffodil painting this morning, I did this one this afternoon, based on a portion of the larger painting, with a little rearrangement. 

For the past three weeks I’ve been studying the paintings of contemporary master American artist Richard Schmid, and his alla prima (which essentially means “at first attempt”) method of painting, in which the goal is to finish the top layers before the first layers are dry. These paintings are usually completed in one or two sessions. And that means quickly capturing the essence of the scene and the details of the focal point, then quickly filling in the rest, so the non-essential elements are less finished, and sometimes left out altogether. I’m using these small paintings as little alla prima workouts, training myself to make quicker decisions about color and about what details are necessary to get the effect I want in the finished painting. (These are not technically alla prima, since I do let the vivid acrylic underpainting dry before starting with the oils. But I am trying to do them in one sitting!)

When I got to the end of today’s practice session, I felt like I had been holding my breath the whole time, and when I finished my signature I finally let it out. Whew! 

I can hardly wait to get back to the larger painting in the morning, and apply some of what I learned this afternoon in my alla prima workout.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorites of Richard Schmid’s paintings:

Captain John’s House

 The Churchyard

 Nancy in Scotland

News and Tea

 Snow House

Glen Croe Farmhouse

 Vermont Spring

 Trumpet Man


I find it very appealing that Mr. Schmid painted a cat. 

A cat named Zorro. Very cool.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Moustachio, cat of 1,000 expressions

Well, not really. He really has pretty much only one expression. 

And this is it.

 See? Here he is on the back porch on a beautiful afternoon just a couple of days ago, 
and here he is in a painting I did of him a couple of years ago. 

Same pose, including the back left foot sticking out just a little to the side and tail lying out behind him a little to the left. I think I mentioned it at the time, but one of the things that made me want to do that painting was that the table legs echoed so perfectly the shape of Moustachio’s legs. Sometimes it’s little visual quirks like that that get me going.

I’m still toying with the idea of doing a series called “Around the World with Moustachio,” with him in this exact same pose in each painting, but in a different setting. Moustachio at the Eiffel Tower, Moustachio along the Thames, Moustachio and the Great Pyramids, Moustachio on Easter Island, etc. 

It could be great fun.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let there be daffodils!


Sweet Distraction  © 2014 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on GessobordTM

private collection • Seminole, Florida

The daffodils aren’t blooming quite yet, but I just couldn’t wait to paint some!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



Midwinter Hope  © 2014 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 9 inches • oil on 3/4" cradled GessobordTM

private collection • Shreveport, Louisiana

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness!

PSALM 150: 1-2


Evensong II  © Karen Mathison Schmidt
40 x 30 inches • oil on 2" deep cradled Ampersand Museum Series GessobordTM

SOLD • Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

Lunch break!


Just took a little lunch break, and thought I would post a progress photo.

And for an extra added treat, here’s a photo of Roadie in his element that our friend Neil Johnson, professional photographer extraordinaire, took a couple of weeks ago:

Yep, he’s definitely a water dog. And a handsome one, too!

Friday, January 17, 2014

More painting progress


Not quite finished, but I’ll be starting on it bright and early in the morning ...

Good night!

Painting, painting, painting!

Evensong II • 40 x 30 inches • oil on 2" deep cradled Museum Series GessobordTM

Trying to finish this one today!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Take my new website re-design for a spin!

Well, keeping my nose to the grindstone inserting approximately one gazillion Paypal buttons to my new website has paid off, I think. It’s finally ready for you to test drive.

Just copy and paste into your browser --

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t use “http://www” in front of the address or it won’t work. 

Please go to the site and take it around the block a time or two!
Go ahead, put the top down so you can feel the wind in your hair.

And play the radio really loud.

You can even kick the tires if you want.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Attempting the impossible

Evensong II • 40 x 30 inches • oil on 2" deep cradled Museum Series GessobordTM

My goal for this large painting: 

To evoke in the viewer just one mega-zillionth of the the awe I felt 
when standing out in the pasture surrounded by this: 

I’m not sure, but I may be attempting the impossible here. 

But I sure am having a ball giving it a go!

I sketched out the composition in pencil right on the Gessobord then blocked in the trees with acrylic: Mars black mixed with burnt umber.

Side question: how come we have burnt umber and raw umber, but no cooked-to-perfection umber?

Just wondering.

Anyway, back to our progress photos.

Imagining the finished painting having a kind of “peachy” cast to it, I decide to keep the acrylic underpainting on the very cool side, to keep the finished picture from feeling too orange-y, while at the same time emphasizing the peachiness by using a complementary tone beneath.

I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but it did in my head at the time. We’ll see if it works.

Here’s the finished underpainting, using only Prussian blue, phthalo blue and quinacrodone magenta glazes over the black/umber trees. I know I’ve said this before, but I love the watercolor-y feel of this stage.

After the underpainting is dry, I squeeze my oils onto my palette and jump right into that luscious sky.

The palette I’ve chosen for this painting:

Old Holland neutral tint (I use this like Payne’s gray, but it’s not quite as bluish)
Bright violet
Dioxazine mauve (similar to diox purple)
French ultramarine
Cerulean blue
Phthalo blue
Turquoise light

Note: more blues and purples than I usually use in one painting, but I wanted all the subtle choices for this large composition. 

Hooker’s green lake deep extra
Sheveningen yellow light (similar to cadmium yellow light but nontoxic)
Naples yellow
Shev yellow deep (again, similar to cadmium yellow deep)
Vermilion extra
Rose dore madder lake antique extra (officially the longest name of any color in my box -- 
oh, and by the way: LOVE this rosy red!)
Alizarin crimson lake extra
Persian (Indian) red
Burnt sienna
Yellow ochre
Burnt umber
Raw umber
Cooked-to-perfection umber
Titanium white

Cooked-to-perfection umber? Ha! I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

 I love watching the trees take shape as I paint in the negative spaces between the branches.

Good night, painting, I’ll see you in the morning!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.