Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

Saturday Tutorial: Limited Palette, Option 1.

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Remember a few weeks ago, when we talked about what to pack? And I mentioned paint?  Today I’ll show you how to get away with packing only four tubes of paint– which saves lots of space and hassle.

A quick disclaimer: These are the four tubes I’d pack when I’m painting here in the Pacific Northwest, which lends itself to softer grays and lots of green. If you’re in a desert, or the tropics, you might choose different colors, but I still think you can get away with only four tubes. Try it and let me know your results.

Titatinium White, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, and Lemon Yellow.

These are the four I’d use. I know what you’re thinking–you’re worried that I’m missing a dark color . How am I going to get nice deep shadows? Or what about tree trunks? There’s no brown. Or gray for clouds or a road? And am I really going to get enough variety in my greens with only those four colors?

You’re skeptical, I know it. I was when I first learned this, too. What if I show you this?

This is my palette after about 20 minutes of work. I got all of this with just those four colors. Here’s a better photo– and I’ve left it large enough that you can click through to refer to it as needed.

Limited Palette for Landscapes

Chart of Limited Palette-- four colors.

On the far left are my original four colors– straight up. Then the second row are various mixtures of two of each of those colors. For example, I started with Lemon Yellow, and I mixed it with Ultramarine Blue to get a dark green. Then I took a little of that mixture and added more yellow to get a lighter green. Then I repeated that process to get an ever lighter green.

Next, I mixed Burnt Sienna and Lemon Yellow for a nice rust color, then I added a little more yellow, and then a little more until I had a pale orangey color. I repeated this process, mixing each color with one of the other three. So it goes like this:

Lemon Yellow + Burnt Sienna

Lemon Yellow + Ultramarine Blue

Lemon Yellow + Titanium White

Burnt Sienna + Titanium White

Ultramarine Blue + Titanium White

Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Sienna

Wait, what? I just mixed those last two twice. Yes, exactly. The first mixture has a smidge (a very scientific measurement) more Burnt Sienna, where the second mixture has a smidge more Ultramarine Blue. One turns in to this lovely brown, where one is a nice dark neutral for shadows– or when I add white, it’s a perfect gray sky. See?

So from these four tubes of paint, I’ve got 37 different lovely shades for my next painting. Still skeptical? I’ve tucked this palette in to the freezer, and I’ll paint my next four paintings using only these colors. That way you can see the results as well.

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?

Summer Sunshine: 4

Thursday, June 10th, 2010


I have a dilemma. It’s a difficult choice almost every time I fly.

Window or Aisle?

There are advantages and disadvantages.

Aisle: I have more space; I don’t have to worry about elbowing someone with my knitting; I can get up without disturbing two other people; I’m less likely to be trapped by a “talker” in the middle seat… it’s better all around.

Window: I can look at the sky.

It’s a tough choice. Jaded traveler that I am, I generally choose Aisle. It’s a safer bet, because I’m more comfortable and the odds are I can still see out the window occasionally.

But sometimes I look out at clouds like these, and wonder if I’ve been making the right choice.

What does your sky look like today?

5×7 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $65.

Want it? Email me here.

*A few weeks ago, I met another artist who was visiting from Alaska. We chatted while I was painting at Muse for Artist-A-Day in April. Since then, Suzie and I have emailed back and forth a bit, and we’ve decided to have a short conversation in paint. Today’s painting is the first in that conversation! And next Thursday, when Suzie replies, I’ve give you a link to her painting too.

Summer Sunshine: 3

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010


One of the goals on my list for this summer is to capture a typical Portland scene in paint. Pale grey sky, muted colors, sunlight filtered through the layer of clouds.

But the problem with that scene is that there are no strong shadows. And strong shadows make the best paintings. That’s what this painting was about– the long shadow of the tree on the left.

By the way, this painting was painted from the same spot as Monday’s painting, just looking in the opposite direction.

6×6 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $75.

Email me here.

Summer Sunshine: 2

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

What if it rains?

I’ll paint anyway. Last week, as I worried about all the rain, there was a sudden break in the clouds. But, I had just put something in the oven, so I was hesitant to leave the house.

So I set up on my balcony. Because I’m determined like that.

I was nearly finished when the sky clouded back over and it began to drip. But oil paint isn’t affected by water, so I kept going.

Here’s the result.

This painting was about that little space of sky between those trees across the street. Once I finished, I realized how much it reminded me of this painting.

5×7 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $75.

Email me here.

Summer Sunshine Series: 1

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Summer! Sunshine?

Of course, as soon as I commit to a summer filled with outdoor painting, it rains 19 days in a row. But I was not deterred. We’ve had a few hours of sunshine here and there, and each time, I’ve grabbed my easel and bolted outside as quickly as possible.

So I have paintings for you– don’t worry!

I’m going to spend the summer exploring my city and painting outside as much as possible. I’m planning to go back to the Rhododenron Gardens, and to the Waterfront, and maybe over to the coast, if I have a chance.

Here’s how this new series will work:

I paint 5 paintings each week. I send one to you in an email every weekday morning. As before, the first email reply in my inbox is the winner of the painting. And of course, there will be surprises and giveaways along the way– because it’s fun!

A note about pricing:
Last time, prices were pretty simple. Day 12= $12. Day 74=$74. But I can’t really afford to sell many paintings for less than $50. Most of my originals (regardless of size) are priced at $100 or more. Supplies generally cost around $30 for each painting, so I’m going to continue offering things here at a lower price point than I normally would. Because you’re awesome.

Now that we’ve taken care of those details, here’s today’s painting.

Since I knew it was just a matter of time before the next rain shower began, I had to act fast. Luckily, I live in a beautiful neighborhood and I’ve been wanting to paint these trees for awhile.

One of my teachers in Seattle used to say, “When painting outside, there’s so much happening, you must decide what’s most important. What is the painting about?” He calls it “Aboutness” and I always think about that when I’m painting en plein air.

The “Aboutness” of this painting started with the way the reds and greens bounced off one another, and moved to the way the light floated around the trees onto the sidewalk. It was windy and I was trying to figure out how to capture that, too. My neighbor walked by and she said, “It almost moves.” Which made me ridiculously happy, and I realized this painting was about motion.

6×6 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $85.

Day 101

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Old Habits.

I’ve been writing these notes for 100 days, and I’m not quite ready to stop.

Even though I don’t have a painting for you today, I want to tell you what I’m planning next. I’m going to keep painting– it’s fun and so many of you have emailed to tell me how much you want to keep going.

But I’m going to switch things up to prevent boredom for both of us. Hence–

The Summer Sunshine Series.

Living in the Northwest, I’ve gotten used to the rain. Especially in the winter. I even like it, most of the time. But when summer comes– it’s glorious. And I’m going to celebrate this summer by painting outside as much as possible.

I’m going to slack off a bit with this project– I’m only going to paint 5 paintings a week for 10 weeks. So starting June 7, you’ll get a painting in your inbox every Monday-Friday. I’m going to take my easel and explore new places in Portland. Because you asked, I’ll explain bits of what I’m doing and how I paint, in addition to my usual stories. (There might even be a video or two.) At the end of the summer, I’ll have 50 paintings of my city, and a nice farmer’s tan.

As always, the first reply in my inbox is the winner of that day’s painting. And while I haven’t fully figured out the best way to price these, trust me that they’ll be options for everyone– because I’m happiest when my paintings live in other people’s homes.

Recap: 100 paintings in summary. (Click here to see the slideshow. WordPress won’t let me embed the slideshow here, so click this link to see paintings 1-100 in all their glory.)

Finally, let’s look back everything that’s happened since February 15.

(If you notice a little red dot in the left corner of the image, then that means the painting is still available. Remember, tomorrow all the paintings go to $100, so email today if you see one you love.)

And of course, prints of any of these images are available too. Just email me.

Day 100!!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Just the beginning.

We did it! 100 paintings in 100 days! Who knew?

I debated what to do with day 100. How could I end with a bang? What could I do to make the end of this project really special? But then, I realized– this isn’t the end.

This project has been incredible in so many ways. When I thought about doing this, I was in a bit of a rut, and had lost a little confidence in my work (and in myself). I wasn’t sure I could even come up with 100 ideas for paintings. Then I was worried that no one would buy them. Every day, I woke up wondering what would happen.

But gradually I got braver and bolder. I think I can actually call myself an artist now without hesitating over the word.  You know why? Because of you. Because you’re out there reading, and writing back, and telling me how much you’re enjoying this. You’re even sending me money so that I’ll send my paintings to you. (By the way, that still amazes me– thank you!)

And I can call myself an artist because I paint. Every single day. Because I don’t want to let you down. And you know what? I’ve discovered that I like painting every single day.

So this isn’t the end– not even close.

Which brings me to the painting for today.

8×10 Oil on Birch Panel. Ready to hang– no framing required! $100

Tomorrow: A slideshow recap of the whole project and details about what happens next. See you then!

Day 99

Monday, May 24th, 2010

One more day.

Wow. Today’s day 99. I don’t really know what else to say.

There are so many more things to paint. I don’t even feel like I’ve gotten a good start!

I had other paintings planned, but I found this flower in the store yesterday, and it looked so fun. It seems very Dr. Seuss like, doesn’t it? So I had to paint it, and that means I’ll have to paint my other ideas sometime later– stay tuned.

6×8 Oil on Birch Panel. Ready to hang– no framing required! $99

Day 98

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Sunday Series: Final

It’s the last Sunday. I’m a little sad about it. But, I have plans for what’s coming next, and I’m excited about those possibilities. So I’ve decided to focus on the future instead of the past.

Which is why I picked today’s poem.

(You might want to click through to see more detail.)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

–Emily Dickinson

4×6 Watercolor on Cotton Fiber Paper on bamboo board. $98

Special rules apply to today’s painting. Everyone wins! On Sundays only, instead of one buyer, I’ll paint a version of this for everyone that requests one, because I think if the quote speaks to you then you should have it.

Each painting will be an original and slightly different from the others I send out, but based on the painting you see above. The only rule is that in order to paint one just for you, I must receive your email by 8pm Pacific time today.

NEW!! Your painting will arrive ready to hang, because I’ll mount it on carbonized bamboo using archival adhesive. Here’s an example.

There will be a nice little keyhole like this, so all you have to do it find a nail and hang it right on your wall! No framing required! Yay!

Want it? Email me here.