Last Blush

I spent a really fun week visiting with my sister and her kids, so I've been a little silent here on the blog lately. I also find that I post so frequently to my Facebook page via mobile (and I've just started up with Instagram too) that I may miss an update or two on the blog. Silent no more! I  found myself pretty tired today, but since the hubs offered me a free morning of childcare so that I could paint, I couldn't pass it up. Once again,  I opted for a very short commute to the patio:

plein air still life floral painting © Jennifer E Young, All rights reserved "Last Blush" Oil on Linen, 8x10" To purchase, please contact me!

I never know whether to call paintings like these a still life or a plein air painting. I guess they are both! This potted hydrangea is one I carried over from the old house. It is still hanging onto its blooms, but they are fading now, from a bright pink to more of a dusty rose. I went back to traditional oils for this piece, mainly because I still have quite a supply of them and I may need to save the water miscible variety for when I need to paint indoors.

During this painting session I tried out a new little gizmo I've had my eye on for a while. It is the Tiffen #1 black and white viewing filter.


The vendor product info states:

"Often called the "Director's" filter this hand held filter converts color scenes to shades of black and white. It allows the photographer to "see" the black and white contrast and tone before finalizing the exposure."

It's pretty neat because you can wear the thing around your neck and hold it up to your eye with the little handle so as not to smudge the glass. I found it useful to check my values with it, especially the dark passages. But I'm not sure about the highlights. They seemed to appear a bit duller when peering through the filter. I may justI have to get used to using it for a while. I will report back after I have had a chance to use it a little more, but I think it might be a fairly helpful tool to check the value relationships in my work during my process, especially if they are in question.

First painting since the move!

After re-reading my post from yesterday I started to feel like a wimp, complaining about the heat and all. Then I tried it and realized that heat stroke does not improve your art one iota! All kidding aside, it was boiling lava hot outside on my patio. I only lasted about an hour before I decided I'd have to leave it until the next day, and pick up where I left off. And so I painted this piece over two sessions, noting the time of day and returning to wrap up at the same time this morning.

plein air garden painting by Jennifer E Young, All rights reserved "A Taste of Summer" Water soluble oils on Linen, 12x12" To purchase, contact me!

This little outdoor still-life setup includes the herbs and flowers I brought from my old place, as well as a big beautiful housewarming gift from our new neighbors (the pink and orange spray behind the basil). A  marriage of old and new,  I felt it was the perfect subject to kick off this new beginning.

I experimented with this painting using Cobra water-soluble oil paints by Royal Talens . I was inspired to try them when I started following the very talented painter Mark Hanson's discussions about them on Facebook and on his blog. I have friends who use water miscible oils, too, but having tried them before without success I haven't been compelled to try them again. But when Mark suggested that his migraine headaches may have gone away after switching to these oils, I took notice and decided to try this new (to me)  line of paints myself.

I have suffered from insomnia for years, and yet ever since we moved to the new house, I have only had two bad nights. That's pretty incredible! Coincidentally, with the exception of yesterday and today,  I have not painted since we've been here. Is it possible there is some other reason for my newfound improved sleep? Absolutely. But it's also possible the fumes were getting to me and I didn't even realize it. It has also bothered me for a while that I am eating as much organic and natural food as I can afford, I'm also inhaling volatile organic compounds on a daily basis in my work. And if we ultimately decide to set up my studio in our current attached garage, water soaked paper towels are  going to be a lot safer than ones soaked with mineral spirits, odorless or not!

I first tried water-soluble oils several years ago. I believe they were Winsor & Newton's Artisan series. At the time I found the handling too gummy and tacky and not to my liking at all. I may not have given them a fair shake though, because in recent weeks I have read that you really should not thin your paints with water or it will produce that tacky, gummy effect and make the paints rather dull and cloudy looking. Instead, Mark advised not to rinse off your brushes too much with water, but to just wipe off the brushes as much as possible in between color mixtures  instead, and save the water for the final cleanup. If needed, use a water miscible oil painting medium created specifically for these paints rather than water to increase viscosity.

That advice made a world of difference and I found myself painting without fighting with my materials. There was a slight difference in the handling and a few old habits to overcome, but nothing so difficult as to put me off. I would say they did not flow as easily for me as my traditional oils, and the color intensity was a tad weaker, but not by a tremendous amount. On the other hand, they have absolutely no odor and seem like they would be great for travel.

From what I have read so far, the drying time may be a bit longer than what I'm used to. But that should not be an issue for ole' Pokey, here. I do hope they dry well and evenly, without any dull passages or great shifts in color or value. I will report back on this if I notice anything remarkable. I look forward to experimenting more with these paints. I really hope these will be my new go-to paints, and that I can ditch the OMS once and for all!

Primrose and Irises

Here's a little celebration of the color violet :-) . I scaled up a bit for this still life. It's still not that big, but given I'm not yet painting these florals at a very fast clip, I felt the difference and it took me a little while to bring it to a conclusion.

Floral Still Life Painting © Jennifer E Young, All Rights Reserved "Primrose and Irises" Oil on Canvas, 20x16" Click here for more info!

I am learning to tackle the cut flowers first. Those babies shift and turn and then have the nerve to shrivel up on you long before you're ready to see them go! The irises are now things of the past, but the potted primrose is still going strong.

Still life shadow box

I mentioned in my last post that it's helpful to have some contol over the lighting environment when painting the still life. A simple solution is to create a shadow box. This is not a new idea. If you google "still life shadow box", you can find lots of examples. I looked at a number of them, but given my tendency for being definitively un-handy when it comes to building things, I went for the low tech option as described by Lee A. Brown on his blog A Day Not Wasted. The only difference was that I didn't bother with the plastic corner moulding he mentions. Instead I found one of my favorite "building" supplies, some duct tape, (in black- SCORE!) when I was shopping for the foam core. Made this way, the box isn't indestructible, but it's sturdy enough since I don't really foresee needing to move it around all that much. The other difference in my box is that I made two windows for the light, one on top and one on the left side, which I can cover or uncover with the leftover scrap foam core, depending on which direction I want the light.  Here's what mine looks like:

Shadow box for still life painting

All of this is sitting on this Ikea kitchen cart on wheels, which I found on Craigslist for $10 (SCORE! again.) I'm only 5'4", so at my height, this cart brings my objects about as close to eye level as I can manage given the space I have to work with. I've gathered various boxes (gift boxes, jewelry boxes, etc. to help elevate my objects even further, and to provide some variety in the height I can achieve with various objects.  Here's a slightly different angle, with my last still life setup inside:


A simple large cardboard box, open on one end, and a shop light from Home Depot, is an even lower-tech version that would also work perfectly fine.

Still life...trying again

The last time I attempted a floral still life painting, it all went south. But, since I have been wanting to build a more regular practice of painting and drawing from life, and since it is nothing but brown and gray outside right now in Virginia (not to mention that I don't tolerate the cold too well) I decided not to let a little past  failure hold me back. And as they say, it's in the failures where we have great opportunity to learn and grow. It sounds a bit cliché but it's also actually true, especially if you don't let the failures wig you out. I have to admit, at first I did duke it out with the old psyche a bit, but upon reflection I realized that I really did learn a few lessons from my last effort. For one thing I learned that I didn't really set myself up for success to begin with. I basically walked in, put some flowers in a vase, set them on a table and went to it. How hard could it be? Wellll....

The first problem was that there is actually quite a lot that goes into setting up a nice still life. I figured since it had been a very long time I would keep it simple by focusing on just the flowers and a vase, and no other extraneous objects. Only extraneous objects were all around my prior "setup" (if you could call it that.) The utility sink was in the background, as well as pictures hanging on a wall, art supply bins nearby, etc.  It's not impossible to paint that stuff out, but it is pretty distracting.

Secondly, in my previous attempt, the lighting was completely flat and non directional. That's great for studio lighting in general, but it makes it harder to create form and good color without that definitive light and shadow. I felt like it was kind of akin to painting outside on a gray day.

So the first order of business was to remedy these issues, and create an environment where I would be "set up" for success.  Once I found a solution to my setup issues (which I will share in my next post) I felt like I had more control.

Here's how it went down, in various stages:

Initial design in a wash of cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and chromatic black:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

Blocking in; shadows first, then midtones:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

Fleshing it out:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

And the final:

Still life floral painting Tulips and Mandarins by Jennifer E Young"Tulips and Mandarins" Oil on Linen, 14x11" Click here for more info!

New floral still life (WIP)

I wish I could say that I was as passionate a flower arranger as I am a gardener, but I'm afraid to watch me make the attempt, you'd likely think I was wrestling the blooms into submission rather than celebrating a creative act. Maybe one day I will learn, but at present, my arrangements are pretty tenuous, and they only  look ok as long as you don't look at the back! But I have these great blooms right now in my garden from my massive Limelight Hydrangea, and I have been really wanting to capture them in paint before they are done for the season.

The shrub itself is far larger than I imagined it would be for my space (probably topping out at 8 or 9 feet by now) , but then that is true of just about everything in my garden! The blooms start out a lovely creamy white, and then turn a gorgeous lime green tinged with pink by season's end. Then the other day while shopping I saw these sunflowers lined up like happy little children, so I grabbed a bunch to add to the mix, and an arrangement was born.

It's been a while since I have painted a floral, but I really feel it's so important to regularly practice working from life, and it's been raining an awful lot this last week. So, with fall lurking just around the corner and my flower garden in its final days, I finally felt inspired to give it a go. (Better late than never, I guess!) Here, below,  is the initial block-in on my 24x20" linen canvas.

floral still life painting in progress by Jennifer E. Young

This is about 3 hours' work. I try not to get too detailed yet, but I have my basic pattern down so that I can jump right in when I return to the easel.

Lilacs and Forsythia

This is the first time I've posted two auctions in the same week. But while this painting would be great on its own, it's also a nice companion to my other still life auction, "Daisies in a Blue Jar". This auction will start at 9 a.m. this morning. Read on for the details!

Floral still life of lilacs and forsythia by Jennifer E. Young

"Lilacs and Forsythia" Oil on canvas (gallery wrapped) 8x8" Place your bid in the auction widget on the right sidebar of this page! Congratulations to Barbara T. for winning this auction!

Even though it's the season of Christmas, springtime doesn't feel so far away with this delicate painting of cut lilacs and forsythia. This original oil painting measures 8x8" and is painted on a gallery wrapped canvas with 1 1/2" deep edges. The painted edges provide a finished look, so no extra framing is needed! This gallery-wrapped painting offers a number of great opportunities for display. It looks equally great perched on a mantel or bookshelf as it does hung traditionally on a wall.

This painting retails for $450.00, so this is a wonderful opportunity to purchase it at a fabulous price (and still in time for Christmas!) Signed by the artist, lower left.

Here's how the auction works:

  • All auctioned items are offered unframed.
  • The opening bid for this painting is just $100 (a fraction of my retail price).
  • Bids increment by $25
  • Highest bidder at the auction’s end wins the painting.
  • When the auction has ended, I will send the winning bidder a Paypal invoice.
  • Virginia residents are subject to a 5.3% sales tax.
  • I ship via U.S. mail within 3 days or less of receiving cleared payment.
  • Free shipping in the continental USA!
  • Visit my auctions page for more details


New still life floral up for auction today

I've posted something a little different today on the auction block. Read on for the details!

Floral Still life painting by Jennifer E. Young 20120826-120134.jpg "Daisies in a Blue Jar" Oil on canvas (gallery wrapped) 8x8"

Place your bid in the auction widget on the right side of this page! Congratulations to Barbara T. for winning this auction!

Fresh-cut flowers are a surefire way to brighten any day. Now you can enjoy that feeling any time with this floral painting of fresh, cheerful daisies. This original oil painting measures 8x8" and is painted on a gallery wrapped canvas with 1 1/2" deep edges. The painted edges provide a finished look, so no extra framing is needed! This gallery-wrapped painting offers a number of great opportunities for display. It looks equally great perched on a mantel or bookshelf as it does hung traditionally on a wall.

This painting retails for $450.00, so this is a wonderful opportunity to purchase it at a fabulous price (and still in time for Christmas!) Signed by the artist, lower right.

Here's how the auction works:

  • All auctioned items are offered unframed.
  • The opening bid for this painting is just $100 (a fraction of my retail price).
  • Bids increment by $25
  • Highest bidder at the auction’s end wins the painting.
  • When the auction has ended, I will send the winning bidder a Paypal invoice.
  • Virginia residents are subject to a 5.3% sales tax.
  • I ship via U.S. mail within 3 days or less of receiving cleared payment.
  • Free shipping in the continental USA!
  • Visit my auctions page for more details

Top ten reasons to paint your back yard garden

  1. You can paint it better than it actually looks (a few more roses here, a few less weeds there...)
  2. Unlike a public garden, you likely won't get taken unawares by the sprinkler system.
  3. You are intimately familiar with how the light travels through the garden at different times of the day.
  4. You are intimately familiar with the location of the latrine (and more than likely it will be free and fairly clean.)
  5. You can leave all of your gear set up during breaks (and probably won't need to get someone to watch your stuff as you break for the above mentioned latrine.)
  6. You can do your part to reduce the carbon footprint (no need to drive anywhere.)
  7. Forgetting to pack an important supply is easily remedied.
  8. Plenty of opportunity to take weeding and pruning breaks (okay, this might not be such a good thing for your painting, but your garden will love it.)
  9. You won't look like a crazy lady wandering through the park staring at trees, with luggage, a big floppy hat, and a compass. (You'll just look like a crazy neighbor wandering around her yard with luggage, a big floppy hat, and a compass.)
  10. The reception to the wireless baby monitor extends just to the edge of your yard!

plein air garden painting by Jennifer Young

"Under the Limelight" Oil on board, 8x6" Contact me to purchase.

This little painting is kind of a cross between a still life and a plein air painting. The Japanese lantern sits at the corner of my garden under the limelight hydrangea (hence the title.) Since the hydrangea isn't yet in bloom, I've punched up the corner with some potted geraniums.

Garden Sentinel

I have always had a thing for these ugly guys:

plein air garden painting by jennifer young

Garden Sentinel Oil on Linen, 20x16" Contact for purchasing info.

Typically you might think of gargoyles peering their gloomy countenances over the edifice of some Medieval cathedral. But there are also garden varieties, and in southern France I enjoyed seeing a number of them lurking in the shadows the private garden nooks and flower beds last year when I happened to pass by on my walks in the countryside.

Throughout the course of the spring, I've been trying to fashion my studio garden with favorite elements from the gardens I've enjoyed during my travels. It's the feeling I'm going for more than any kind of exact replica, but I'm aiming for something of a cross between the gardens of Provence and the Aquitaine and the courtyard gardens of New Orleans and Key West. ( I plan to post some photos of my studio garden soon.)

I painted this piece en plein air in about 2 1/2 sessions. The dappled light changed very quickly in this spot, so I really only had about 1 hour per session . I had to just take note of the time of day and report back at that same time so that I could work with the same lighting conditions. I have been told that my little garden gargoyle is called a "house protector." Dave just calls him Ed.

Happy 4th of July weekend everyone!

Too cold for plein air...? So I'll write about it instead!

Note: This post picks up on a conversation that started in the comments section of my post from a couple of days ago about painting outside in "the elements"....or not. My first plein air painting experience was a disaster. In fact, I don't think I was really won over with the whole idea of painting on location until about the 5th time out. It took many more outings than that, however, before I created anything I considered to be remotely approaching a "success".

There were definitely days when I found myself wondering why I bothered with it at all. Even now that I really love plein air painting, I still find I don't do it as often as I would like. It is certainly a lot easier to paint in a nice cozy studio at any time of day or night without having to haul a bunch of gear around. It's a hassle. You have to deal with bugs, sunburn, wind, rain, or the freezing cold. In some cases you also have to deal with constant interruptions from passers-by (from dogs to people to timed sprinklers coming on unexpectedly to boats parking right in front of your view!)

But even with all of that, there is something exhilarating about it. It can often be the best sweaty, bug-bitten, exhausting, driven, compelling, and highly focused couple of hours I've ever spent. And even in the "wipers" or those that end up in the "circular file" there was often enough of an element-- maybe just a square inch or two-- that hinted at some special understanding and called me forward. In short, there was something this experience was teaching me that I wasn't getting by working in the studio alone.

In order to really enjoy my plein air painting experiences I think I first had to finally let go of the need for a particular outcome. Of course ultimately I want to become a better painter! But just as I'm trying to do now with my life-drawing, I gained the greatest benefit from this practice when I finally started viewing it in terms of what I could learn rather than what I could produce. The shift in perspective helped, because what I found from nearly the beginning was that whatever the immediate outcome, these experiences helped to inform and improve my knowledge and understanding overall, including the work I did in the studio.

Since my work is based on the natural world, there is no better reference than nature herself; and one of the main benefits of plein air painting for me is that I am painting from life.  Plein air painting isn't the only way to achieve that of course. I can also set up a still life  or do some figure drawing and painting (which is one reason why I've gotten back into life drawing myself this winter when I can't seem to get myself outside in the cold for more than 5 minutes!)

But the difference with plein air is that not only are you dealing with painting your response to a "live" subject, you are also having to concern yourself with the changing light and many other things that move and change and can't be controlled the way you can do in the studio environment. It's limiting, but not in a bad way. It pushes you to think about simplifying and making the bold statement without having to articulate every little detail, and doing so with a great deal of accuracy at the same time.

That is not to say that by their nature all plein air paintings are "better" than studio paintings. I'm sure anyone who has spent time looking at landscape paintings has probably seen a good deal of strong AND weak paintings produced by both methods. Ultimately, a painting has to stand on its own.

Both methods have their advantages and their limitations, which is why I like to "mix it up". In some respects the two practices could be compared to short-pose gesture drawing vs. longer, more studied sittings done in life drawing. In either case, I'm sharpening my skills of sight and understanding, but using different muscle groups, so to speak. Hopefully with regular practice the dexterity and skill will grow. That's not all there is to art. To be sure, it's not art without individual creativity and expression. But skill and dexterity in the execution sure make it a lot easier for me to better articulate my creative vision.

p.s. I've just gotten word that I've been chosen to participate in the "Painting North Carolina!" plein air invitational sponsored by the Germanton Gallery. The event runs from March 29 through April 2nd, with a reception on April 3rd. Looks like I may have to get outside soon, cold weather or not, to get some practice in before the event!

"Spring Mix" still life painting

Things have been quiet around here, namely because we're still recovering at our house from an awful flu. It threw a wrench in our Valentine's day plans, but at least I managed to capture my  flowers before they faded. It's always good to sharpen the saw by painting from life. The weather's been pretty mild this winter, but lately it's been crazy-windy. Otherwise I'd be painting outside these last couple of days. But a still life is a good teacher as well, though you don't have the ever-changing light:

still life painting of flowers in a vase "Spring Mix" Oil on Canvas, 16x12"

The title is actually the same that I am using for an upcoming show I'm preparing for in April, so I should be posting a number of flower and garden-related art between now and then.

If you are interested in this painting, please contact me for more info.

Miniature landscape painting of the Tuscany sunset

This painting sold last night at my gallery exhibition preview, but it's still on view tonight for the First Fridays downtown art walk. It is a companion to another Tuscany painting I blogged about a couple of days ago:

Tuscany landscape painting sunset

"Lingering Light, Tuscany II" Oil on linen, about 3.5" x 7.75" sold

If you're doing the downtown art walk tonight in Richmond, come by Jennifer Young Studio & Gallery and see all of the "Small Stuff" -- miniature paintings and prints --on display for the holiday season. The gallery is located at 16 East Main Street between 1st and Foushee.

If you're not in Richmond, I am continually uploading new paintings to my web gallery, or you can see them offered first here, on the blog. I'm also offering free shipping (with some restrictions) until the end of the year, for holiday shopping convenience.

Useful links:

Ideas for hanging "small stuff" How I pack paintings for shipping My purchasing FAQ's My gallery information (and virtual tour)

Mini still life oil painting; colorful apples vignette

Here's one of many small pieces that will featured in my "Small Stuff" show that opens next week at Jennifer Young Studio & Gallery. It's a colorful still life painting of apples in a translucent red bowl:

colorful still life painting apples

"Three's a Crowd" 4x5", oil on canvas sold

Set on a gold mini easel, this little piece is great on a shelf or mantle with other objects d'art. In the gallery I have it grouped with a couple of my gallery wrapped mini florals:

Miniature still life paintings by Jennifer Young

More mini paintings and vignettes will be featured as my next show draws ever closer. Stay tuned! **UPDATE: This piece has sold. See some of the other small works I have available for sale here and here. For more information about any of these pieces, please visit my website or just contact me.

Do you Squidoo? My new lens on hanging artwork.

According to Wikipedia,

"Squidoo is a network of user-generated lenses --single pages that highlights one person's point of view, recommendations, or expertise."

According to me, it's pretty addictive! I've really been enjoying surfing it, and I've also created a couple of lenses of my own. My most recent lens is: Hanging Artwork and Caring for Your Art Collection. While I've blogged some of this information before, I've included new content on my lens that I hope will be of interest to art lovers and art collectors. I've also just updated my other lens on landscape painting with new content, so check them out! And if you enjoy my lenses, please consider leaving a star rating for them at the top of the screen.

Red Zinnias

Ah red. I am so attracted to this color. If you walk into my house almost every room has at least a little touch of red (not every room but almost!) My kitchen is painted a wonderful deep shade of red. The color of blood, red symbolizes life and vitality. It also symbolizes passion and fire. In Feng Shui, red is associated with romance, wealth, and happiness. I suppose it is no wonder I am attracted to it.

impressionist floral still life painting

This painting is 12 inches high by 6 inches wide. It is painted on a gallery wrapped canvas, and the edges are finished off with a color that coordinates with the painting.

For more information, please contact me.

Lilacs and Forsythia

Today I'd like to share another little still life painting I just completed. It is oil on canvas, measuring 8x8 inches. It is done on a gallery wrapped canvas, and the edges are finished off in a color that compliments the painting:

still life impressionist painting

This painting reminds me of springtime in Virginia. Forsythia abounds, as do azeleas, dogwoods and lilacs. It's supposed to be a snowy slushy mess today so spring is little early yet. But the optimist in me still contends that it is not far off. Meanwhile I wear long johns and paint.

For more about this painting, please click on the image or contact me.

February opening announcement

In anticipation of Valentine's day, Jennifer Young Studio & Gallery will be holding an exhibit entitled "Flowers and Candy". The show will feature Jennifer's floral still life paintings and scenes of flower gardens. Please join us for an opening reception on Friday evening, February 2nd from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit continues through March 1st.

monet's garden painting by Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young Studio & Gallery is located at 16 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219; two blocks east of the Jefferson Hotel. The gallery is currently open during the First Fridays Art Walk, and at other times by appointment. For further information please visit the website or call 804-254-1008, or toll free 1-877-DIAL- ART.

Also, as a special Valentine's day promotion, we are offering a complimentary gourmet chocolate bar with purchase, through February 14th. The chocolate won't last, but the flowers will last year after year! ;-)

Daisies in a Blue Jar

Here's a little 8x8" alla prima still life floral I just finished. I like painting flowers especially in the winter time when it's too cold to for me to go outside. This painting is gallery wrapped, with finished edges on all sides. I think this would look great in a yellow or blue kitchen. I also like putting little paintings like these in unexpected places, such as in amongst books in a bookcase, or on a little shelf. For more about this painting please click on the image or  contact me .

floral still life impressionist painting

Side view:

impressionist still life painting