” à la soupe!” (au poisson!!)


Back in the portraiture class, we had a model posing as a chef.

Behind him was a large black piece of fabric.  As I was painting the background, I did not want to have so much black.

First I added the bottle of wine…. but that was not enough… so I added the window.. then I thought, “What should be out the window???? ok, the sea… and a boat!”  I liked that, even though I had a devil of a time making that open window!!

Then I thought: “He if is by the ocean, he must be cooking a fish!”🙂  So I added the fish!  :)  I had such fun painting the fish… although I think I should curve its tail a bit!

Fun fun …

Ghost Ranch, Day 5


I had gone SO wild the days before, I needed to calm down with a strict assignment I gave myself: a simple value study to reinforce in my head that hills in the far distance are lighter and cooler than hills in the front which are darker and warmer.

In the beautiful setting of Orphan’s mesa, I chose to look at the distant mesas, all in different shades of blues in the morning light.  I had a wonderful and peaceful time.

Ghost Ranch day 3, pm


This one, I absolutely LOVE.  It does have some corrections from Bill, my teacher, so I cannot take credit for the whole thing… but most of it!  :)

I had a fantastic afternoon painting and enjoying the are.  We were by the Chama river.  There were the biggest ant hills I had ever seen!


Ghost Ranch Day 3, am

… total melt down!!


I tried so hard to paint something which resembled what I was looking at… and could not.  It was like I could not control what I was doing, like there were 2 selves, the one brainy one which could see what was to be done, and the other one, who just did what she wanted.  I tried to “wrestle” her, but it was like holding a tiger by the tail.
Finally I gave up and sat down crying on the grass.

I wrote:

“Yellows, blues, ochres and cadmiums, all have a mind of their own.  They go wild on the canvas… I can’t control them.  Details elude me, all hiding in the crevasses of the massive cliffs.

I am in the presence of Nature at its most grandiose, how can I create ugliness??

My frustration, my expectations get in my way, so I pull back.  I shed a tear.

I sit on the ground knowing I belong with the Earth.

I am still.

Soon I feel her (the Earth), flowing up my spine.

I find peace and acceptance.

On my art journey, I am where I am and it is OK.”

I then got up and finished the painting.  Cecilia, (Bill’s assistant) came and with her wonderful sense of psychology and great art skills, helped me see the value of what had just happened.

Both she and Bill, as it were, loved the piece I had created, as strange and weird as it was to me!!🙂 Go figure!

This is what I was looking at. !


Ghost Ranch Day 2


On the second day, in the am, we all sat-up in front of this beautiful rock formation, the sun catching these long shadows…

It seems it is all I saw: the interplay between the shadows and the lit surfaces… no details..(!!!)… and painted this:


I won’t even post what I painted that afternoon… still trying to make something of it…🙂

Ghost Ranch, Day 1

A landscape class in New Mexico with Bill Gallen.

I struggled all week…  I listened and took notes… I understood….

But when the moment came, my paintings took a life of their own, and never looked like what I was looking at!!  (Unlike the paintings of the other students who were all masters at landscape painting!!  What was I doing there??)It was a wonderful group of people who got along very well.We stayed in Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch, spectacular vistas, rock formations and skies you would not believe..Plus, I did not have to cook for a whole week!

Bill Gallen was a fantastic teacher: clear, precise, understanding, and very organized.The first day, Bill did a demo, then in the afternoon, we all painted.

I did this, trying to copy what he had done.  This painting is the closest to what I was to achieve, but still a long way from finished;




The United Nations in my waiting-room

There suddenly are a lot of folks in my waiting-room. They are careful not to disturb my patients, but they are constantly whispering… I am not used to all that energy… I try to listen: it is all about the “Open Studio”:
The five “Men in Turbans”, deep voices resounding, must be speaking in Farsi and I don’t understand a thing. The “Italian Chef”, by the door, is complaining that I am not going to serve wine and cheese. “Tom”, all proud of this blue ribbon, is rehearsing a song.
On the wall across, the “Woman with yellow tulips” wonders whether her flowers will make it to Saturday…”Blondie is so excited, she can’t stay still and chatters away. “Heavenly in the World of Numbers”, is counting the days. “L’Attente” is, ..well… waiting by the window. “Malala” must be praying. One woman is powdering her nose in front of her mirror, she wants to look her best…”Canyon-Belle” is keeping a close eye on her horses, she is not comfortable here, and might ride-off any minute… “Punk Girl in the Purple Hair” is having “That Look”: she does not want to be here, hanging on the wall, waiting. The “Girl in the Andes Plateau” is calmingly smiling, she can’t wait to meet everyone. The “French guys with a beret” on the easel is urging me to finish him so that he can hang on the wall for the show…
It is kind-of-like the United Nations in my waiting-room…
Oh! I must tell you! There are even ELEPHANTS in my waiting-room!!! (not in my “living-room”, ah ah ah !🙂 )



Sometimes, a painting takes a life of its own:

as I progress here, I am REALLY liking the softness of the colors which conveys very well the gentleness of the model.  But these colors are not accurate… so I am at a point where I need to choose: do I correct the colors to be true to the pose and the model, or do I follow the direction the painting has taken??

Decisions, decisions…  :)

Reading by the window

Reading by the window sm

18 x 24 – Oil on canvas

Oftentimes, paintings take a life of their own: this one certainly did!🙂

It started in class, with a model against a plain draped background.

First I follow what is in front of me.  Then I stand back and start the problem-solving process:

“This is boring..; how can I perk it up??  Oh, may be a bit of green…. or: ” What do I do with all the empty space??… may be a circle?… what is this circle about???….may be a window??.. what’s outside the window???.” … and so on , and so on…


At the Fair

At the suggestion of my neighbor, I entered two paintings at our local county fair.  She came one day all excited: “Isabelle, you need to go to the fair!  You have won something!  I won’t tell you what!”

So the next day I went with a friend.

As I walked in the building where the art pieces were displayed, I quickly saw my Painting “Tom”… it had a “First place” ribbon.  Oh boy, did I get excited!!  Then I looked for my second piece to find out I had “Second place”.  I texted the kids, very happy…

We then went to look at all the other paintings… I realized that I was the only one in the “Portrait” category!  I had won by default!!  We laughed so hard!!

Before leaving the building, we looked again at Tom, and I saw that the large ribbon next to it, was not table decoration, but a prize for “Best of Show”.  Now, that made me happy!  ;)

Color Charts

When I switched from watercolor to oil, the biggest change was mixing colors: I was not aware of this, but my color mixing in watercolor, was very intuitive: I would mix, then if I did not like it, washed my brush and started again until I found something I liked.

One cannot do this in oils: it takes a bit of time to mix the colors, and this process would waste way too much paint.  I realized I had no conscious thought of what I was mixing…

For two years now, I have painted almost only portraits…  I now know how to get the colors I want for creating skin.  But a few weeks ago, when I was trying to make greens and purples, I realized I need to go back to basics: I needed to make color charts.  So here I am, making them:

I first started making tints (adding white) to the colors I liked the most: I made a separate page for the blues, the reds, the greens and earth colors.

Then I took viridian, and added other colors to it, that is another chart.

I will keep going like this for quite a few weeks… It is tedious, but I do it as in a meditation.

When I look at the result, I am in awe on how much I am learning.  All these charts are hanging on my kitchen walls, waiting to dry!  I LOVE being surrounded by all these colors!🙂

Caples Lake


Oil on board.  12 x 12

Oh my!  Time flies!  I sure am way behind all my posting…

Here is a painting done on the shores of Caples Lake, in the Sierra Nevada.

Three weeks ago, 7 women and I rented a log cabin in Hope Valley (South of Lake Tahoe) and spent 6 days plein-air painting.  It was wonderful.  This is the third year I do a week-long of nothing but painting, and each time it is a tremendous learning experience… (I guess that is how it would be if I painted full-time..:) )

It got quite hot each day, and I, unlike my watercolorists friends, never finished any paintings.

Back at home, the first thing I did was to start making color charts, because I never was happy with the colors I made on location… I created blue, red, yellow, green and other mixing charts. (and I will keep making them for a while!)

I pulled out the painting furthest along, and worked on it for a few days.  I think I am now done…


Stormy day

Stormy day sm

Acrylics, 18 x 20 canvas

All these portrait paintings for the last 2 years make me concentrate so much.. I haven’t done any imaginative paintings in months!  To think I used to do them daily!!

So I was very happy to get into this one during the week-end workshop…  I am not sure it is finished, but I had a great time playing.

Acrylics 101

Tired pear sm

I discovered Karen Ingalls recently.  I love her sense of colors.  So I signed-up for a week-end workshop she was teaching: Acrylics 101.  It is good to go back to the basics.  I realized I had never learned the basics of acrylics, always jumped in, in a class or another..

I learned so much in that class, Karen is an outstanding teacher, very methodical, covering everything but also very encouraging, letting one explore.  There was never a dull moment and we finished two paintings.

Karen first explained the differences between the different types of brushes.  In all my years of community classes, no one had ever done that!!  I also learned how to properly clean my brushes…

Here is a pear, we all made pears.  Before getting to the painting part, we learned about composition and making thumbnails.  This was not rushed, but given a lot of importance.

I chose a crazy composition, a pear from an angle.  I thought it would be fun.  I regretted it of course, as I quickly had a hard time keeping that bottom interesting and not a giant round ball.  Karen’s demo was beautiful, with the colors bright and blended.  I tried it, but decided to keep the sense of patches to give this little painting some interest…

Halfway thru the class, I decided to take a picture of my pears and send it to my kids.  Somehow the lighting picked up the blues in the greens (of course, made from a Phtalo, no surprise here!), and I quickly got a text back: ” How fun!  A blue pear!  Beautiful!”  :)  Kids!!  I could paint anything and they would get excited….

But, it gave me an idea…. Should I paint a blue pear?..😉

Pyramid Peak from Robb’s Peak

Pyramid Peak sm

8 x 10 Oil on panel

I lead a day trip of snowshoeing 2 weeks ago.  We had to drive three hours to get there.  I am a morning person, so wanting to paint a snow scene, I decided to go early, the idea being that I would set up my easel at the trail head and paint while waiting for the others to arrive.

2 other folks decided to come early with me.  When we got there, I started to pull out my backpack containing all my painting gear. (Unlike watercolors which can be quite minimal, oil painting involves a lot of equipment, starting with the easel!!)

To my surprise, the other 2 folks started to put their snowshoes on.  “What are you doing?  We are supposed to wait for the others… ”  Well, there was no talking them out of going, they were so excited.  I new Carl, the other leader would be fine with the rest of the group. But I REALLY had wanted to paint a snow scene.  As the official leader, I could not let them go on their own, especially since the trail might not be easy to find if no one had used it after the last snow..  I could paint at the top… but how was I going to shlep all the stuff up the hill?  As a leader, we already have a substantial backpack to carry, with large first aid kits and all matters of snow survival in case of trouble…


I decided that my best bet was to find a way to attach the two packs…  with the help of the other participants, that is just what we did… and looking like a giant turtle with an enormous carapace on my back, we headed up the hill.  Slowly but surely we got to the top 2 1/2 hrs later.

It was very windy, but a gorgeous sunny day.  We found wind protection and unloaded our packs.  After a well deserved lunch my two companions fell fast asleep in the sun.  I pulled out my canvas and paints and looked at the peak across in the distance… I totally got lost.

I knew I had to paint fast and I only brought three colors plus a tube of white…

An hour and a half later, we were joined by the rest of the group and eventually all came down together.

Painting AND snowshoeing in the same day!!  That’s heaven!  :)

La dame aux tulipes

Dame aux tulipes sm

Oil 40cm x 50cm, after J. Peralta

I wanted to practice by copying another artist, an old tradition in the arts.

I also set out to paint using only 3 specific colors.  Many times I was tempted to add a brighter one, but resisted, and I am happy I did.  I love the colors in this painting and how well they harmonize.

Girl in teal kimono

Girl in teal kimono sm

Oil 40cm x 50cm

This time, I made an effort to have my portrait resemble the model.  A good exercise, but in the end, I find the painting boring… except for the colors!  I had fun with the colors.

Beauty is over-rated: I like interesting faces with wrinkles, crooked noses, weather burnt skins….  :)


Ancient designs

Peiseyl sm

Continuing on my thought of daily entries in my “ArtBook”: the idea being to free myself from the sense of producing something “worth to be on a canvas”… This art book has no purpose but play, play , play…

(I have always been fascinated by Paisley: It is a very old symbol of a tear drop.  I, on the other hand, always see a womb..)


Tom sm

Oil 16×20

Our model Tom, was an interesting man: an artist himself, he would come around and give us advice.  A musician, he posed with a guitar.  I was fascinated by his face, so I chose to do a portrait.

Before even knowing who was going to be our model, I had, at home, prepped my canvas with gesso and a stencil, to give it a faint textured.  I had no idea how it would work, but I like the effect!

I had tons of fun painting this, and it went very fast.


L'attente sm

Oil -18×24

This painting was nothing but frustrations from the very beginning.

I did not care for my view point, but there was no other room in the class for me to stand.  I was concerned that the large black mass of the skirt would overcome everything.  But I kept at it and tried and tried.

I found it quite boring and not interesting in any way.  So I added a window to try to give some sense to the pose: a person waiting… I still did not care much for it… then I added the cat.  It seem to ground the scene, and give it some peace…

Still not my favorite by a long shot, but it is always good to push thru frustrations… right??  ;)

Why wasn’t I born an Indian


16 x 20 – Oil

Unconsciously, I changed this model to look (somewhat) like a Native American… Why?  I am sure it is because I admire them so much.  I share their total love and respect for all things of Nature.  I envy their old ways of life, in great harmony with their surrounding world, taking only what they needed, giving thanks to the Earth, learning from other animals… Proud people with honor…

As I paint this woman, part white, part Native American, I wonder: “Why wasn’t I born and Indian?”  :)