Thursday, June 30, 2016

A new composition

Tuesday afternoon a friend took me to another friend's family farm to take photos of chickens and a rooster for future painting reference. While I was there I got pics of cows, sheep, pigs and their beautiful cat. Of course I can't resist starting off with the cat! 
I used the grid method to draw my subject onto the Gessobord. When I'm drawing a composition for painting I draw every main shape I see, including shadows and highlights. And don't forget the whiskers and eyebrow whiskers; their direction and the shapes they make when criss-crossing each other are just as much a part of the composition as everything else!
This is actually a light pencil drawing; I darkened it in Photoshop to make it easier to see. While I was drawing, the shapes reminded me of continents and countries on a map. Check back for more progress!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Studio Kitty painting finished!


Critique  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM
private collection • Charlotte, North Carolina

Here’s Pontoufle, ready to give me a few pointers on my studio technique. One of his most important (according to him) observations: never underestimate the value of choosing a feline-related subject!

In my reference photo, the handles of the paintbrushes were black, but when I started defining the brushes, I really liked the red and magenta underpainting color there, so I kept it ... one of the perks of being the artist!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Studio kitty in progress

Today I did some work on a large woods landscape, then started on this fun little painting of Pontoufle watching me squeeze out a fresh palette. I only did a very basic, minimal sketch of this one before starting with the paint, and I like the spontaneous feel so far!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Going wild!

I’m going wild today listing new prints in my eBay store! 

Here’s another new one now available:

signed and numbered Limited Edition Fine Art Print
10 x 8 inches 
(also available in other sizes; just email me or send me a message on my Facebook page)


New in my eBay store: Set of Four Daffodil prints

signed and numbered Limited Edition Daffodil Fine Art Prints
each is 8 x 8 inches 
(also available in other sizes; just email me or send me a message on my Facebook page)

$95 for the set of 4

New Limited Edition prints available!

Tabasco’s “Mom” has very kindly given me permission to make prints 
from the painting she commissioned; these “Fringe Benefits” signed and numbered 
Limited Edition prints and Art Cards have just been listed in my eBay store. 

There are larger sizes available, too -- 
just comment on this post or message me on my Facebook page.

“Fringe Benefits: Ray” Limited Edition Print 
20 x 10 inches on Ultrasmooth Heavy Fine Art Paper • $80

“Fringe Benefits II: Tabasco” Limited Edition Print 
12 x 12 inches on Ultrasmooth Heavy Fine Art Paper • $55


“Fringe Benefits: Ray” Limited Edition ACEO Art Card 
3.5 x 2.5  inches on Ultrasmooth Heavy Fine Art Paper • $7.50

“Fringe Benefits II: Tabasco” Limited Edition ACEO Art Card 
3.5 x 2.5  inches on Ultrasmooth Heavy Fine Art Paper • $7.50

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fresh off the easel!

Fringe Benefits II: Tabasco  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 inches • oil on cradled GessobordTM

COMMISSION • Norrköping, Sweden

This commissioned chihuahua painting newly finished (just have to sign this puppy).

As soon as he’s dry enough to travel he’ll be winging his way to Norrköping, Sweden. What a joy this little guy was to capture in paint! (12 x 12 inches, oil on cradled Gessobord)

Oh, and just in case any of you were wondering, below is the first Fringe Benefits painting, which lives in Oxford, England.

I feel so international right now. 

Fringe Benefits: Ray  ©2014 Karen Mathison Schmidt
24 x 12 inches • oil on cradled GessobordTM

private collection • Oxford, England

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A silent observer

My studio painting technique is being scrutinized right now. I won't be surprised to find a multi page critique on my desk this afternoon, including several long, detailed paragraphs on the virtues and many advantages of always choosing a feline-related subject.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A glorious sky and a new painting barely begun ...

Glorious sky tonight about 8:15 -- long light is one of my favorite things about summer!

After I worked on the chihuahua painting today (progress photos tomorrow), 
I sketched out this start of a new woodland painting on a 24 x 24 Gessobord ...

... based on this photo I took last year at the gardens behind Norton Art Gallery.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Another daffodil!

Showoff  © 2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)


from my eBay store

So much fun posting the progress photos for this as I painted this afternoon. You can see the progress photos with my commentary on my Facebook page.

Happy painting!

Friday, June 17, 2016

A new painting, and the moon

Such a Time as This  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 x ¾ inches • oil on ¾ inch cradled Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective) • sides painted dark umber
easily displayed with or without a frame


from my eBay store

I’ve recently started sharing photos on Instagram:

SO easy and fun I don’t know why I put it off for so long! I’ve been posting the progress photos for this one there, and also on my Facebook page:
so I hope you’ll check it out!

When I walked out to shut the gate just a while ago, this was the view just above the treetops:

What a beautiful way to end the day. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chihuahua in progress ...

“My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet.”


PET PORTRAIT COMMISSION IN PROGRESS • 12 x 12 inches • oil on GessobordTM

Didn’t get quite the early start at the easel that I was planning, but Tabasco himself is done. Tomorrow I’m planning to tackle that background! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A new Louisiana landscape in progress ...

Untitled work-in-progress • 12 x 12 inches

Here’s the underpainting for a new landscape I started this afternoon. I went really wild with the acrylic underpainting (as per usual!) and tomorrow I’ll start reigning it back in with the oils.

I think I’ll be able to post the finished version of the Tabasco chihuahua commission, too.

Gotta hit the hay now so I can get an early start in the morning. Hasta mañana, amigos!

Happy Painting!

a time to mourn

It’s so tempting this morning to get sucked into the “conversation” which all too quickly declines into nothing more than the same old arguments for our individual views on so many topics.

Let us be still for just a while, and simply come alongside and mourn with those who mourn.

“Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando?”

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sun Bather

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things that I had no words for.


I am always doing that which I cannot do, 
in order that I may learn how to do it.


So many daffodils, so little time.



Sun Bather  © 2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM

private collection • Rancho Cordova, California

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Another in a series of daffodils

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.


Sunny Dance  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)

eBay auction ends evening of June 16

Sun Catcher  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)

eBay auction ends evening of June 13

While working on the Tabasco chihuahua painting, I’ve been warming up in the mornings with daffodils. Here are the first two in an impromptu series that I’m working on, and I have two more underpaintings ready to go. No matter how much I think I know about color, there’s always more to learn, and doing these all in a row is helping me see more and more nuances in the shadows and in the translucent petals. 

Doing a series is also a good way to practice keeping things spontaneous and loose, and avoiding nit-pickiness and getting caught up in too much detail. Just knowing there’s going to be another one right behind this one keeps me from over-finishing. Fun!

Here are the next two underpaintings waiting in the wings:

Happy Painting!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Spring break on the threshold of summer

I must have flowers, always and always.


Sun Catcher  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)

eBay auction ends evening of June 13

After a few days of rain, the sun made an appearance today, making for an absolutely splendid afternoon for painting!

After continuing on the Chihuahua commission for most of the day, I stepped away just for a bit for a little “spring break.” I felt so joyful here on the threshold of summer, remembering these favorite heralds of early spring.

Attempting to capture the personality of this big, bold daffodil with loose, thick, painterly brushstrokes will help me to avoid getting too nit-picky when I return to my larger painting of Tabasco the chihuahua in the morning. Check back tomorrow for more progress on that one!

Friday, June 3, 2016

A new commission begun ...

About four years ago I painted this cutie patootie named Tabasco.

He’s a Swedish Chihuahua. 

A Long Winter’s Nap: Tabasco © 2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt

Now before you go Googling “Swedish Chihuahua,” I should tell you he’s not a new breed; he’s a Chihuahua who just happens to live in Sweden. 

Now he’s a little older, but just as cute as ever, and his “Mom” wants a new painting of him. 

She sent me these photos of him and asked if we could put him in a comfy cozy setting like we did last time, but this time with a color scheme of pinks, lilacs, purples and greens.

So I gathered a few things from around the house that fit into the color scheme (including a blouse and a skirt, some fringed throws, and a couple of fabric place mats) and held a little photo session out under the trees. 

Jo made a brief appearance. 

She left in a huff when she found out the set-up was for a DOG painting. 

I tried to get Pontoufle to sit in for Tabasco ... 

... but he wasn’t into it. All he wanted to do was take a nap under the bench I had so conveniently placed there, just for him.

So I used a little Chihuahua-sized vase as a stand-in for Tabasco.

 At one point I stuck this pot into the mix. I wasn’t sure how I would use it, but I really liked the color and texture with all these other colors.

After spending some time going through the photos and pulling elements out, I used Photoshop to put together two compositions for Tabasco’s mom to choose from as a reference for the new painting.

See how I used the texture from that green pot? After I finished with this picture I caught myself thinking, “ I wish I had a chair like this for the front porch.” 

This is the photo comp she chose. I started the painting yesterday and I’m loving painting this adorable little guy; check back tomorrow for progress photos!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Mind of the Illustrator

The Joy of Reading  © 2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
10 x 8 inches • acrylic on cradled GessobordTM
Commission • New Orleans, Louisiana

For almost thirty years, my job as a graphic designer and typesetter included some illustration here and there. When I first started it was still more than a few years before personal computers and desktop publishing came on the scene in a big way, so I used to collect pictures of objects, animals, people, buildings, places and design elements that I might use as reference for freehand drawings, when it wasn't feasible to hire a model or set up a still life. I had file folders with my own photos, pages from magazines, catalogs, newspapers, and books, which I would go to when I needed an idea or a picture reference.

Then along came the Mac. And Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. And CD's you could purchase chock full of stock photos.

And then. My first digital camera. And the internet. 

Oh, my. 

Now we can take thousands of photos without having to buy film and waiting for developing, and there is literally a whole WORLD of reference at our fingertips. Of course, I’m the first one who will say that as an illustrator you should always take your own photos or use your client’s photo for reference whenever possible, and always be sensitive to copyright issues. That being said, now it’s so easy, fast and fun to put together a composition, especially if you know the basics of an application like Photoshop.

A while back, friends commissioned me to do a painting from this photo as a surprise gift for their daughter, a reading teacher passionate about her job who had taken the picture of one of her students as she sat upside-down in a chair, engrossed in her book. 

I loved the picture, and set about making a solid, more colorful composition from it that would remain true to the original snapshot in feel; that is, candid and casual, unposed, spontaneous, unarranged. A fun everyday moment.

My favorite part of this is the shoes. Sure, our subject may have to wear a uniform for school, but she has determined to express herself in her choice of footwear!

Color decisions for the background elements were made by looking at my subject apart from her surroundings in the original photo ...

... and going with complementary colors. Her shoes are easy: red. So complement would be green. Her skin, visible only at her ankles and the top of her forehead, is a beautiful warm caramel (my painting brain translates this as “Mars orange and burnt sienna”); so complement is blueish. Her khakis have a yellowish cast, and yellow is a dominant color in the cover of the book she’s reading, so complement is – okay, everyone, all together now – purple! So now I know the background will be a cool mix of blues, greens, and purple.

Using diagonals is a good way to add interest and liveliness to any composition, and the original photo already had natural diagonals, so I carried those diagonals into my comp. I made the decision to bring the rug more into the picture so that it would be the main background pattern, and I also made note of the simple and bold design of both it and the gold and white zigzag pillow that you can just see lying on the floor to the right of the chair. I had the feeling that these things were chosen by our teacher for her classroom, so I went “shopping” on the internet for pictures of similar furnishings to use in putting together my picture. 

SIDE NOTE: At this point I would like to say that home decor is like a drug to me. And foraging for design elements amongst all the home furnishings available on the internet, while one of my very favorite things to do, is also quite a precarious activity for me in that if I’m not very careful I can spend hours and hours trekking through Interior Design Land and without even realizing it I will have long since lost sight of my goal of finding a rug and a pillow, and have wandered off into curtains, dining chairs, tables, lighting and kitchenware. 

And while we’re on the subject, it’s nothing short of brilliant marketing for Hobby Lobby to have their art supplies in the very back of the store so that when I need to pick up a bottle of picture varnish or some acrylic glazing medium I first have to make my way through acres and acres of vases, pitchers, furniture, mirrors, clocks (my VERY favorite!), baskets, and a vast array of antiqued metal and turquoise colored items. If I can get to the art supply section – and, oh yeah, BACK again – to arrive at the checkout with only my little bottle of varnish it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. Of course in the dozens and dozens of times I’ve been to Hobby Lobby to pick up one or two art supplies, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have managed to do this successfully. 

Anyway. Back to our composition.

It didn’t take me long to find this rug, on the Pottery Barn website. Aqua: PERFECT!

And this pillow, which I think I got from Target. Or maybe it was Pier One.

I played around with angles and arrangements ... 

... and ended up with this as my final reference photo. Putting our reader a little off center and letting the right side of the round chair go out of frame just a touch on the right adds to the casual feel. 

I stretched the rug out from left to right at the bottom of the photo, so that the perception would be that it is actually lying on the floor and the viewer is standing right at the bottom of the picture looking down, so the design is bigger right at our feet and slightly smaller toward the top of the picture where the rug is a little farther away from our eyes. Same thing with the size of the pillows.

The thing that took me the longest was deciding where to put the pillows. Bringing them over to the left and letting them go out of frame on that side helps balance the whole composition, both mass-wise and color-wise. At first I had made the floor peeking out from under the rug at the top of the picture a darker blue, but then decided to brighten it up to bring out the bit of blue in the book cover. 

And now, the painting! 

Usually I use the grid method to draw my subject onto my Gessobord, but in the interest of time in this case, I printed out my pic and used transfer paper to trace the composition onto the board. 

NOTE: Perfectly okay to do this if you’ve composed your own photo. However (and I’m talking to myself here, too), DON’T LET YOURSELF DO THIS TOO OFTEN or you might get lazy with your drawing skills. Practicing drawing from photos and especially from life is the BEST way to hone your SEEING skills.

Okay, NOW the painting!

I did this one entirely in acrylic, and my palette was:
violet, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, cobalt turquoise, phthalo green, cadmium yellow light, Indian yellow, cadmium orange, pyrrole red (LOVE this bright, true red), medium magenta, quinacridone magenta, yellow oxide (similar to yellow ochre), burnt sienna, burnt umber, ivory black and titanium white.

I started my underpainting with an acrylic magenta glaze (acrylic glazing medium mixed with my paints) over the background area, then a glaze of cerulean blue inside the shapes on the rug.

Now, a more transparent glaze (more medium, less paint) of magenta over our subject, and turquoise on the book. You can see I’ve also started with cadmium yellow glazing over the top pillow ...

 ... and continued with the yellow everywhere except the floor areas in the top corners and the bottom part of the rug where the chair and her feet are casting a faint shadow. I wanted to keep it cool there.

Developing the shadows of the chair and the darkness of her hair with glaze of violet, and the shadows of her khakis with phthalo green glaze. Also starting to redden up her shoes a little more here, with the pyrrole red. Adding detail to the book cover, plus some Indian yellow and cad orange for the highlights in her hair. Starting to add white on the pillows, the pages of the book, and the metal of the chair frame.

Also, you’ll see here that I decided to add a headband, which I will paint the same color blue as the floor and the bit of blue on the book cover. I achieve a bit of outline effect by painting the area darker, then not going quite to the edge of the headband shape with the blue.

Painting in the white on the rug design and the book, and continuing to whiten the pillows. Bit by bit, whitening up her khakis, but still letting the shadows be defined by the colors of the underpainting peeking through. More red on her shoes. LOVE that pyrrole red! Also starting to add some turquoise mixed with a little white to the shapes in the rug. And adding some Indian yellow to the orangey gold design on the pillows. Trying not to get too caught up in making that design perfect, because I’m going for a looser, more fun, impressionistic feel, not photorealism! 

Notice that the turquoise on the rug is painted in loosely, to let the blue and purples of the underpainting show through, especially in the shadowy area toward the bottom of the picture. After it dries, I added just a touch of yellow glaze at the bottom right and top areas of the rug, to sunny it up a bit.

 Starting to work on those splashy shoes!

Finishing the shoes and her ankles, and developing the shadows on the pillows. You can see how I added some variation in the blue of the floor, too, in the final picture below.

A little more yellow added to the sunny areas of the rug and pillows, and just a little more color in both the shadows and those fiery highlights of her hair ... 

... signature ... and done!

Happy Painting!