Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for June, 2010

Summer Sunshine 18

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


Sometimes I start a painting and get overwhelmed with possibility. Looking across the water at this scene was one of those times. There are infinite shades of green in nature and I struggle with trying to see them all.

But I’ll keep trying.

8×10 Oil on Masonite block. $90.

Want it? Email me here.

Summer Sunshine:17

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


Thankfully the kids from yesterday’s painting moved on and peace was restored. I painted this painting in complete quiet– I think that comes through somehow.

5×7 Oil on Masonite block. $55.

Want it? Email me here.


Monday, June 28th, 2010

Waterfalls (and a Tutorial!)

I was a little intimidated when I started this painting– moving water is tough to paint. I was worried I’d mess it up somehow, or get frustrated and give up. But I decided it was worth the risk, because I could always paint over it later if I hated it.

The light was changing quickly, and I moved across the pond from the falls, so I could get the best view. I set up my palette and started sketching in the big shapes. It was going well so far and I was happy.

Then I looked up from painting to see a mom and her four kids headed toward MY waterfall. The older boys jumped in and started splashing each other, while the youngest girl squealed in terror every time a drop of water came within three feet of her body.

My concentration was shattered, and I thought, “They’ll leave in just a bit. Be patient.” Right then, the mom said, “This is the perfect spot– we’ll take our pictures here!”


I almost threw the painting in the water right then. But I watched them for awhile, and worked on the parts of the painting that I could see.  Eventually the squeals of terror turned to laughter, and they were all having so much fun it was hard to be mad. So I decided to follow their examples, and just have fun with the painting. I’m not sure this is the most accurate representation of the waterfall I was looking at, but it was fun.

5×7 Oil on Masonite block. $75.

Want it? Email me here.

Tutorial: Values

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

A couple of days ago on Facebook, a friend was talking about her search for a  photographer and she said:

“just saw some photography that I LOVED and others I felt were lack-lustre. I’m realizing more and more that i love the high contrasts, basically adding glamour to an everyday shot. beautiful!”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. I might use different words, but a successful painting is all about values.

For example, here are two paintings of mine from a couple of years ago. These were from my views from childhood series. I painted what I remembered seeing from my bedroom window in houses I lived in as a child. Because they were from memory, some were better than others.

Which painting do you like better? If I’m guessing, I bet your eye is drawn to the one on the right more. Why? Because it has more contrast, yes? Another way to say that would be that it has stronger values. I’m not making a moral judgement here, I’m simply saying that the darks are darker and the lights are lighter. There’s a good range of lights and darks. That’s what you want in a painting, right?

Another example. Let’s say you were going to paint this pink ball.

How many different shades of pink do you see? Light pink and dark pink? Any more?The problem is that your brain says, “That’s a pink ball,” even if your eye sees many different values there. So we have to find a way to overrule the brain and get rid of the idea of color for the time being.

But if we were to reduce it to a black and white image, how many shades of gray would you see? More than two or three, right?

I know what you’re thinking. “But, Jolie, I can’t take the digital camera and Photoshop everything in to black and white for every painting, especially if I want to learn to paint outside.” And that’s true. But– you can use this:

What is it? It’s a piece of red cellophane film fitted in to a slide frame. You can see that mine is covered in paint, because I’ve used it so much. I keep this near my easel and whenever I need to simplify an image, I pull it out. It’s the manual equivalent of using Photoshop to make a black and white picture. See?

I just held this over the camera lens in the same way that I’d place it in front of my eyes. Now, I don’t have the color to confuse me and I can look only at the values. Do you see more values this way?

So if we apply this same idea to a landscape painting, we might start with this.

So your brain thinks, “Blue sky, brown building, green trees.” And you start to get out the blue, brown and green tubes of paint. But there’s a problem. If you listen to your brain here, you’ll get a very different image on your painting than the one you see. Look through the cellophane and see what I mean.

Okay, so there's a bit of paint on the cellophane-- that's why it's blurry.

When you look at the same image through the red cellophane, you notice that regardless of color the building is one of the lightest objects in the image. So if you listen to your brain and pull out the brown tube of paint, the building would be one of the darkest objects in the painting. That’s why the cellophane helps.

Paintings with a wider range of values are more fun to look at. And more fun to paint.  Try it.  You’ll see.

Summer Sunshine 15: Play

Friday, June 25th, 2010


With 100 paintings in 100 days, I did a watercolor every Sunday, but this time I’m not painting on Sundays. So, Friday is going to be the day for improvising. Some Fridays I may paint a watercolor, but today I thought I’d show you something new.

I’ve been playing with encaustic (the process of painting with hot wax) for a few months now, and I’ve eventually created some paintings that I really love. It’s fun to take the principles of painting with oil and apply them to a new medium. Landscapes work beautifully for this.

I worked this in several layers. First a layer of clear wax, then gradually building up to the lighter colors right on top, which is exactly what I do with oil.  I love it! The wax has a softer filtered quality that seems to add depth somehow.

The roses are everywhere these days and I love them. Portland Roses seem unlike any other to me. They’re so extravagant with color. Maybe it’s just the contrast with all the gray we’ve had lately, but I’ve appreciated them more this year.

Once again, here’s a photo of the side, so you can see the process. The layers are much more obvious from this angle.

4×6 Beeswax on Birch Panel, $65

Want it? Email me here.

Summer Sunshine: 14

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Take two.

This bridge might look familiar. I painted it once before back in the spring when the colors were a little brighter.

It’s funny how painting the same thing offers different results. That painting was about the big blocks of color, where this one seemed much more about the spaces of sky and bits of cloud around the trees.

As for this bridge and the Rhododendron Garden, I think you’ll see more paintings from here. This place is magical. And well worth the six mile bike ride– even with 18 pounds of easel strapped to my back.

8×10 Oil on Masonite block. $95.

Want it? Email me here.

Summer Sunshine:13

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


I love trivia. Useless knowledge is my specialty. I can’t remember to unload the dishwasher, but I remember random facts about the date of the Battle of Hastings, the symbol for Potassium on the Periodic Table, and who won the Triple Crown in 1977*.

That’s one of the reasons this bridge is my favorite. This is the Hawthorne Bridge. It’s the oldest vertical lift bridge in operation in the US. It opened in 1910, one hundred years ago this fall. And every day 4,800 cyclists cross it. It’s the bridge that leads to my neighborhood from downtown, and knowing all the trivia that surrounds this bridge makes me feel like a real Portlander.

It’s also rather complicated. Which makes painting it even more fun.

6×6 Oil on Masonite block. $95.

Want it? Email me here.

*Trivia answers: October 14, 1066; K; Seattle Slew.

Summer Sunshine: 12

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


While I was painting this series, I had a few spectators. One was a four year old named Miko. She was fascinated with everything about me and my painting. She asked questions about the brushes, the easel, the paint, the paper towels, everything. As I painted the tents across the river, she talked and watched.

She also gave me plenty of advice about the painting. “Now paint the buildings. And put more clouds in.”

So as I got close to finishing this painting, I asked her, “Miko, do you think it’s done?” She shook her head. I asked what I needed to do.

“Put in some red. It’s my favorite color.”

She was right. Those little dots of red make a difference. I should listen to four year olds more often.

5×7 Oil on Masonite block. $75.

Want it? Email me here.

Summer Sunshine: 11

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Summer. Day 1.

You know what’s funny? Trying to paint a Summer Sunshine Series, when Portland is experiencing the wettest Spring on record. I read today that we’ve had exactly 4 sunny days since April 1st.  Maybe I jinxed it by announcing a Summer Sunshine Series?

Well, at least now it’s officially summer. So perhaps the sunshine is on the way.

This week: paintings from Portland’s Waterfront during our most recent sunny day.

This is a view of the Morrison Bridge, from the east bank of the Williamette River. It’s one of 12 bridges in the city, so expect to see a few more bridges here soon.

6×6 Oil on Masonite block. $90.

Want it? Email me here.

Don’t forget about Saturday’s Tutorial! Did you see it?

Plein Air Packing List (Extras)

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

So we’ve covered the basics, now we’re going to talk about the frills.

Here’s the list for reference.

Anything that doesn’t have a red dot is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. Though, I like to use anything I can to make my paintings better, I have to consider the fact that I’m probably schlepping all of this stuff on the bus. So not everything from this list goes with me everytime.

We’ll go in order of importance.

Water. If I’m going farther than my front yard, my water bottle is the first “extra” thing I pack. Painting outside is hard enough. If I get a headache from dehydration, it’s nearly impossible. I’d probably add sunscreen to this list too. And a hat is easy to bring along, so it’s pretty high on  my priority list.

Easel. I put this on the non-essential list because I painted outside for several years without one. I just wore old jeans and balanced the painting on my lap. It’s not the easiest solution, but you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. In fact, I just bought my outdoor easel last month. It has a nice box and a bag to hold the essentials, which helps as well. I also keep a clean trash bag in here– I can use it as a poncho if it rains, or to pick up after myself or others. I have this one, in the half size.

Phone. Again, not necessary, but pretty high on the list. If I’m painting alone, I want my phone nearby. The best light for painting is late afternoon, which  means I’m often coming home in the dark with a lot of stuff. A phone is a good thing, because I can call and tell the husband to go pick up pizza for dinner.

Palette knife and paint keeper. I hate to waste paint. Hate. it. But I know if I don’t put every color out on my palette, I won’t be as happy with the painting. So I squeeze them out. Once I’m done, I scrape the palette and put all the paint in a little plastic tub. Then I bring it home, mix it up and add it to my other leftover paint. Once I have enough, I fill one of these Aluminum Tubes that I got from Daniel Smith. This paint becomes my neutral– I can mix it with other colors to tone them down, or use it as an under-painting color.

You can see my neutral color on my palette here. It's the brown on the top left.

Viewfinder. The hardest thing about painting outside is choosing what to paint. With so many options, it’s tricky to narrow down a composition. You can use your hands to create a square and view your composition, but then you look like you’re making a film, not a painting. So I use this. It has little marks to show dimensions proportionate to the size panel I’m using. It’s pretty handy and very small, so it stays in my plein air box. Another option is a frame for slide film, with piece of red cellophane inside. Why red cellophane? Because it’s an easy way to determine values. And values deserve a post of their own.

I use this one, but you can just as easily cut one out of cardboard.

Finally– a chair. I’m pretty conflicted over this, because it’s the biggest thing to schlep, and it’s awkward. But if I’m out all day, and painting several paintings, then standing gets tiring. And if I’m tired, I don’t paint as well. And sometimes the angle is better if I’m sitting. And if I’m painting details then I can steady my hand against my knee. But, it’s a hassle to carry. I got this one at REI– it folds up very small, has a shoulder strap and a place for my water bottle. It’s still the last thing on my priority list, and often doesn’t make the cut. Especially if I’m going out on my bike.

I might add a snack and I’ve seriously considered an umbrella that attaches to the easel (especially with the rain we’ve had lately) but that’s another really big thing to carry. And I already look like a bag lady when I board the bus.

Can you think of anything I’m missing?