Scouting Paintings

April 21, 2016

Spring is here! It has been most of 5 winter months, with very little plein air painting.  I have ventured out a few times since January to paint.  Only to return home with frozen paint fingers and very little actual painting started.

Now that spring is definitely here.   Everything is blooming in a wide range of colors and compositions.  Spring offers lots of opportunities to paint, especially with the wide variety of Texas wild flowers here that deckle our rich historical architecture and homes. It’s truly inspiring but can be overwhelming too.   The challenge is selecting a location to paint.  To discover a spot that will still be interesting at the end of the painting.

So a few weeks back I opted to just look for painting locations.   Luckily the local town was founded in 1848 and has a large selection of historic architecture and homes nestled among wild flower and poppy gardens.  So there is a lot to choose from.    Thankfully, the weather was quite comfortable for walking through the neighborhoods. I happily spent my Saturday morning, just scouting out new opportunities looking for possible compositions.

As with all plein air painting there are challenges to consider, like location, safety, shelter from elements, or traffic?  Is it safe to park and set up your easel in a new area?  Is there sufficient shade shelter to protect you from the sun or unexpected shower?  How much street traffic can have a major impact on the ability to start let alone finish a painting on-site.   Is there a decent spot to stand without disturbing any unwanted pests like fire ants or wasps?


I also find it very helpful to include pictures of the street signs to help remember where my best locations are. Lastly,  it always a good idea to introduce your self to the locals before you discover you are in “someone’s spot.”

Luckily my scouting about the poppies worked out.  As I was recording possible spots, I stumbled upon a lovely side street garden.  It was so inspiring!  I decided to introduce my self and say thank you for such a wonderful spot.  Now I have another place to go and share the fun of painting new garden stories.

Since then it has rained a fair amount with more rain.  Which means my plein air painting outside will be very limited for me in the next few weeks.  So I have been perusing my stash of pictures scored on my outing and working out preliminary sketches.  Which means should I get the chance to go paint I will know just where is my next stop!

My wall easel is done and all ready to accommodate larger paintings awaiting my attention.  The wall easel has a minimal depth requirement but can accommodate a 7’x8′ painting easily enough or multiples pieces at the same time.

Wall easel & Clamps complete!

Wall easel & Clamps complete!

Two weeks ago, I started building the wall easel for my studio inspired by artist Jason Tueller’s design and handy work.  The first weekend, I knocked out most of the build project, installing wall braces and vertical rails in an earlier blog Oct 14 (Studio set up).

However, I still needed to make the clamping bars to hold my paintings on the easel.  It has been slower process to fabricate those parts.

Canvas clamping bars

Canvas clamping bars

I had to trouble shoot how to notch out the back part of the clamp to fit around the vertical rails.  I definitely wanted to have them adjustable in height to accommodate small and large pieces.  So I had to plan my process to keep the wood blocks true during and after the build to provide a better fit on the vertical rails.

I have limited tools.  I have a circular saw, a drill and other basic carpentry tools.  I did not have access to a table saw or sanding table that might have made quicker work of the pieces I needed.

back plate

back plate

I am a smart girl, so I used set the depth on my circular saws to score out a 1/4″ deep notch. Then set to removing a six-inch section were needed.  Sanded it a bit to remove any splinters.  Then clamped the matching pieces, drilled peg holes and securing threaded flanges.

clamping the pieces.

clamping the pieces.

I will admit they many not be flawless, but they definitely work!  Now I am all set for starting and finishing my next big project!

Studio – Lights (part 2)

October 14, 2013

Stage 2 for my studio – Lights!

Every studio requires sufficient balance of warm and cool lighting.  Most painting artists prefer the northern light balance, however, not every studio has norther windows to provide sufficient light.  Fortunately, today, fluorescent lights come in a wide range of color spectrum.  So it is easier to manage daylight northern light spectrum inside any space with a simple install of light fixtures.

Next step was to upgrade my studio lighting.

Fluorescent light strips are set!

Fluorescent light strips are set!

I hung two 4ft fluorescent fixtures to run parallel my easel space.  I installed daylight spectrum fluorescent in each fixture.  I was sure not to cast multiple light angles or shadows.  A giant upgrade from the standard incandescent 6owatt fixture.
Side note, Though I love my large window, I soon found that the double pane window was bouncing the natural light as well.  So I hung a light blocking drape to better control the light balance.

Tah Dah, there will be light!
I can accurately mix and gauge true color mixtures!

Updated lighting arrangements in next post..

New Paint! New paintings…

February 11, 2012

New Paint!

New Paint has arrived!

A new year has started and is moving along.  It’s already into February of our New Year here with our colder winter spell too. I have been stealing time in my studio as weather temps permit, since my studio is in the garage. It’s currently nearly 50 degrees out there.  So it takes a bit of time to get it comfortable to work out there. Paint has a happy temp for optimum working conditions, and below 50 degrees is not it.

Between cold spells I plan the next stage of paintings and continue to push on new projects currently underway here in the studio. But that growth requires more supplies.  Thus More Paint!  I have officially moved onto ordering the super tubes in hopes of making it through the bigger projects.

Hamilton Pools *BIG Sky* stage 1

My BIG project for Hamilton Pools is well underway. Notice I have the smaller 18″x36″ painting study above the panels here for comparison.

It's going to be this BIG!

By BIG, sort of, I mean a 3foot by 6foot painting.  And yet, sometimes it’s not quite big enough to relate the magnitude and majesty of a Texas sized treasure. Yet with all large paintings larger quantities of paint are required.  Mixing the calculated colors and values are again a critical part of paint consistency.  Matching values changes ensures the ability to relate visual atmosphere and depth of such a large project.

Hamilton Pool *Big Rocks* stage 2

Stay tuned to watch the growth of this painting project.  Time to catch up, lots to do here. Will post more later.

Prepared for another year.

September 5, 2011

My birthday.

Other than waking to the pops of local hunters in the distant. It is the first hint that fall temps are on their way to cooling the summer heat. The promise of a long weekend figuring out what to do next? Perhaps shopping Labor day sales. A relative quiet day spent baking for others.  I even had the joy of visiting my sister and helping with my new nephew.  It was a quite day for myself.

But even more so heart breaking to hear and relive the stress and fear associated with emergency evacuations and disasters.  Especially as hundreds are evac’d from there home in the wake of the large wild fires not so far from us. Many of whom are my new friends since relocating to our new home.

I have experienced being pushed from my home at wee hours and in a flurry to get to safety.  The first time was numbing and agonizing to literally drive out at 8miles p/hour slower then the impending hurricane Rita bearing down on our regions at the time.  The reality of knowing that all you may have left is packed into you car hoping to get to a love one’s refuge in time to wait it out is even more exhausting.  It was even more awful to sit and listen /watch the news and ticker to gleam any word of our community in all the events of the storm.   You should sleep, but you can’t possibly rest or sleep from all the anxiety of not knowing the fate of your home and community.  All 4 times, it was a similar numbing experience, 2005, 2006 (we stayed) 2008 -twice more.

We have been here for 3 years now, removed from the threat of coastal hurricanes.  And I find myself remembering the long hours prepping for EVAC orders and waiting for the all clear to return home to assess and rebuild.  I am realizing that we have yet to restock our emergency EVAC supplies.  (Yes, I had that for 4+ years). What do I pack?  I have a clear plastic tote filled with emergency numbers, policies, prescriptions, resume/transcripts (if available), a change of clothes, sweater, for each member of my family, pet tags and vaccinations, batteries, maps (local and national), dry rations.   I would actually leave it out during hurricane season.  Now I am reconsidering how I would change my supply box if I did not have a car to get out with.

The difference with wild fires is that they can move blindly and just as quickly as a storm. Pushing across open land as fast as the driving winds. But they leave little time to prepare let alone get out to safety.

My learned advice.  #1. Turn the TV off.  You don’t need the sensationalism.  Contact a friend or loved one, let them know you are safe.  Ask someone to help you stay on top of any breaking news, without bombarding you with all the sensationalism that will be attached to the disaster. Go to a museum or public space to help get your mind off the situation. Try to keep you phone line free for any necessary emergency contacts required.  And remember that all the official phone lines will be overwhelmed with calls to inquire about the status and others trying to do the same.

I know that one little blogger may not be the answer to a difficult situation, but take time to consider what you need before you need it.

Friend’s note’s after the fire:

Advice after the Fire by Trish Aikman

Shoshwrites: Rebuilding house and life after a fire.
Emergency Supply list Sites:

The grand Scale of things.

August 21, 2011

It has been 3 months since I completed my Master’s degree. YAY!  or so I thought.  I have yet to throw a celebratory party since I figured it best to find a solid job.  Looks like that’s postponed too.

See apparently while I was attending classes and working on a preferred degree for career advancement the job market most effectively shut down.  So these days I spend my days updating resumes and cover letters to submit for new listings in a wide range of active job postings.  Or researching software tutorials to get updates on the new software requirements. Honestly, I have more than 30 active applications out from recruiting to office assistant, with little activity thus far.  But I still have all the bills piling in all the faster and wanting payment.

These past 3 months have been crusher, from emergency room visits to major house repairs. We have cut and trimmed back everything we can think of.   No, we don’t have cable we dropped that 8 months back.  We have to keep the web access for my husband’s job access but nothing else in the extravagant category.  Shopping is limited strictly to necessities and critical food options.  And the attrition of numbers still grow longer than the gravy train while our last reserves dwindle into the negatives here.

I’m still pushing against the rock trying to get up the hill.  Every day I hear:

Where do I want to go these days?  Well, working would be a start.   As an artist would be a bonus!  Realistically, I know very limited availability these days. I have plenty of real skills too. I have plenty of quality ideas but no means to capitalize on them because that requires more capital i don’t have.

What do you want to do?  I would be happy starting the day knowing I could contribute intellectual value and help someplace or some one grow in the community.  I am a jack of most trades have worked everything from retail to non-profit to public education.  I went back for the masters because I was loosing out on good job opportunities without it.  So now what?  Go back to classes for more software instructions that will be outdated as soon as I complete the courses?

More recently, I keep hearing from random sources look on the bright side of things. You have your education now!  The right thing will come along.  Maybe your supposed to do “something else”.

As an artist I have been most productive, completing more than 30 paintings in the last 2-3 months. I didn’t paint for most of the last 3 weeks b/c of other obligations.  I have prepped and hung 2 shows and saw a total of 6 people visit between the two.  I’m still trying to focus on the next one lined up, but it’s a bit disheartening to see so little turn out in an area that loves the arts so much.

But the Reality of it?  I have a brain, and I can see that it means at this pace I am going to lose everything we have worked to keep through all the other set backs and catastrophes.  Including the house we haven’t been able to sell in 3 years.  So I’m still at the bottom of the hill.

I am a working artist, on the starving list, trying to push the what paints I have left, but the rest is bogged up on the hill waiting…

Prepping and Framing

July 24, 2011

Some days you just have do the prep work.

Today, I wanted to paint.

But spent the day prepping and framing paintings for the Georgetown show on August 13th.   The second stage to finishing a painting is of course signing it clean and legibly.  That requires the right brush and paint consistency applied with a smooth steady hand.

Framing art is not terribly difficult and I actually enjoy it.  But it is somewhat tedious, time consuming, and somewhat costly if you make a critical error.

Always Measure twice and mark your spots before you drill the brackets into the frames.  Some frames can crack easily if you are not careful.

Assemble all necessary tools and to reduce frustration and time lost hunting for the missing drill or brackets. Tools you will need: small and large wire clippers, needle nose pliers, screw driver, small cordless drill is very handy, ruler and tape measure, and pencil.  I keep my framing tools in a designated tote for easy access. And added portability when I deliver art work for any required quick fixes.  I also keep small band aids for unexpected nicks or cuts when framing paintings.

I should mention that it is very handy to have small portable tables to add works space when framing.  I have 2 small 2’x4′ folding tables be sure to clean them before you start framing to avoid any unwanted spotting on art work or frames.   It’s always a good idea to watch for curious little ones interested in you tools, accidents happen very quickly and can be very serious with framing or sharp tools.

Lastly there is recording important inventory details on each painting like title, subject, media, dates, and sizes for printing labels and contracts.  So that’s been a day of counting, checking, prepping, and recording just to get the work hung for August.  So I try to keep a system and check them off as I go.

July 4, 2011

Ok, World.

I know you are waiting to see the next painting here, but my efforts have been divided the past few days between the cyber world, learning new programs, and striking out with mud pie paintings that are making me see double. Some times, literally.  I am updating my computer skills with a few necessary software programs.  But they are of course some what tedious in figuring out on my own.

As for the mud pie paintings… sometimes the right side of the brain just don’t talk to the left side that is responsible for mixing the correct value and translating the right shape.  Some times you have to take a time out.  No, I don’t like my own painters advice.  I need to do. I need to push back on the painting to get it right.  But that’s not always the right solution.

I plan to step back this week and go for a few more playful prospects, that is If I can get my toys subjects back from my son.

So this past week I have managed to get Esty set up for everyone wanting grab that little gem of a painting for their growing art collections.  I will also be adding direct links for each painting posted to my blog and many from my website. So take a moment and visit my shop!

AlexisMcCarthyArt Shop

Subject suggestions are always welcome. 🙂

Undo, Unpaint.

July 1, 2011

Well, world some days are just not paint days no matter how much paint you might mix on the palette.

All one’s efforts appear to dissolve the longer you “try to Fix It”.  Not to mention the growing quagmire of dirty paint and paint rags.  Best efforts generally start with a solid thumbnail . <check> Decide color scheme to establish a clear direction for any new paintings. <um, uncheck>.


Warm light, Cool shadows.  Nope.  Perhaps reverse it cool light, warm shadows. Nope.  Adjust mixtures?  More complements = more interesting grays usually does the trick quite nicely.  Ah, no. Not that either.  Lighter softer background to diffuse the light?  no. Scrape again, readjust values. Light, Shadow, form shadow, check local color,  Simplify. No, still no cup yet.

Well I was trying for painting a special cup today.  However, even the most recent adventure has resolved to be scrapped and or scraped for another try later on, alas no more paint today. I’ll admit I am one of the last artist willing to just walk away from a painting, much less a drawing quagmire without giving it a long run for resolving it.  But today has simply been a mess out there.  To gummy, thick and inconsistent paint value relations have seriously effected the ability to paint a once thought simple straight forward subject.

Ha, taunts the painting.  Come back another day, I shall still be here.  The ever constant challenging mathematical ratio of color, paint, and ratios to relate a illusion of light and shadow on canvas.

I suppose I shall go back to the machine and book to focus on learning the new and improved soft wares I have avoided for so long.  if all else There are always the chores..

Comparison Color Tests

June 20, 2011

Golden Open Acrylics: Artisan WS Oils: Traditional Oils.
Colors & ranges mixed only with primary colors and the addition of white.

This past spring I began having major health complications.  My throat was always sore and raw. My tonsils & adenoids were inflamed but had no contributing sinus drainage accompanied by regular ear and headaches.  After a battery of strep and allergy tests the doctors concluded that I was suffering from Chronic Rhinitis.  The determined that extended exposure to the medium and turp I was using.   I need to switch from the caustic oil paint solvents & turps to a less volatile paint medium that is safe for me to breath, even with significant air flow.  Breather masks have little positive effect on the denser particulates associated with paint solvents used in oil painting, it can in fact only concentrate the particulates in the filter of the breather masks.  But rather than jump ship into the blind I wanted to find a comparable safe solution to avoid any back pedaling in my paint process.  I especially wanted to maintain the integrity of my preferred paint palette as much as possible.

All paints vary in consistency, color saturation and pigment gradations.  They vary even more between different manufactures much like any other  pharmaceuticals or food products. So I determined that I needed to try a couple of different options and test them.  The tests are comparisons between 3 different paint formulas: Winsor Newton traditional oils, new Golden OPEN acrylics and new Winsor Newton water soluble oils (cleans with water) no solvents required.

Winsor Newton traditional Oils.

Winsor Newton traditional oils: color swatch gradations.

Winsor Newton Artisan water soluble Oils.  *mixed without added medium.

Artisan water soluble Oils. Color samples.

Golden Open acrylics. *mixed without added medium.

Golden Open acrylics Color samples.

The gradients help determine the pigment saturation levels for each paint sample. Some manufacturers use more binder and oils to suspend the ground pigments resulting in a weaker pigment a weeker true color.  Others add stuff and that can often yield muddy colors if you don’t know what you are working with.  Here I selected only the R Y B Primary pigments and mixed all Secondary and Neutral color mixtures + 5 gradations.

Still life comparison between Artisan Oils (left) and Open acrylics (right).

Still life: WN ws oils (left) vs Golden Open acrylics (right).

Thus, far I am really liking the results from the water soluble oils.  Still researching for any posted health effects with the new formulated oils. The Artisan water soluble oils are pigments suspended in a modified linseed oil base that became available in the past few years. They clean with soap & water rather than solvents.  They offer a rich thicker consistency even without added mediums and decent working time, but cleaner.  Plus the added benefit of painting on top of traditional oil under paintings.

The Acrylics tend to dry too fast even with the suggested extenders. The acrylics also dry thinner and still change 2 values darker after dry. So you end up with a thinner darker painting as it drys and ages.  Could work for under painting or if you really want to maintain the canvas texture in you work. But I found it more frustrating to come back to a darker paintings than I started.  Not always good when you start out in the field and return to the studio to finish a painting.

A significant part of Art is science, the other half is psychology and a bit of practiced skill. Testing is what gets consistent results. Sometimes even artists need to do diligent testing and research to determine the logistics of our preferred medium.  For my preferred style of painting, the Artisan paints offer  what I’m looking for, a thicker creamier body to the paints.  Each individual has a different need and preference, so remember to really test for effectiveness.  I have started further explorations to see if the paint holds true in value and range over the next few weeks.  All 4 paintings from this past week are ws oils.  Stay tuned for other tests and updates.