Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 

Wishing you and your family a year of peace and joy.
Thank you for your support and friendship.  It is truly appreciated.  

Tomorrow is the start of the 30/30 Challenge.  I hope you will join me.  And I hope you will paint along with me.  I think it will be a great learning experience and a lot of fun.  See you tomorrow..............

Thanks for visiting with me.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Challenging myself in January 2014

Golden Morning, 9x12, oil, framed.
Available on my Ebay page.
I’m looking forward to utilizing Leslie Saeta’s January2014 Challenge of 30 Paintings in 30 Days as a chance to improve my focus and discipline. 

My personal challenge will be to choose a different reference photo or subject each day and set a specific goal for that painting.  I will set a time limit of 2 hours or less and after the time is up, I will not allow myself to work on the painting again.  These constraints should force me to stay focused and work deliberately.  I will then post photos of the subject and the finished painting on my Blog and on Facebook.  I hope to be able to complete all 30 paintings - if life doesn’t get in the way.

I will post the paintings – good or bad – and tell you what my goal was, what problems I encountered and what I learned.  I hope you will join me in this challenge.  Maybe you might want to officially join, or maybe just paint whenever you can.  Whatever you choose, this can only lead to better paintings.

After that, I will add my successful paintings to my Ebay page – (Fixed price format with best offer - no auction, no bidding.  Free US shipping.  All major credit cards accepted through Paypal Checkout).

Unsuccessful paintings will never see the light of day again.

Thanks for visiting.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The other day my 10-year-old granddaughter came into the house all excited.  “Come and look at the Christmas tree that I cut for you and Papa,” she said.  “ I picked it out special for you and cut it all by myself and dragged it home - just for you!  Isn't it beautiful!”  She was just beaming with pride and love.

 “It’s a perfect little tree!  We love it!” we both said.  The happy look on this sweet child’s face truly made this little tree something very special.

We have had “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees” at our house ever since our boys were old enough to go with their dad to cut a tree from our woods.  The tradition has continued with our grandchildren.  We are a close family and very fortunate to have both our sons live near by.  This little Christmas tree might not have many branches and it may be a little sparse, but the love that radiates from it fills our house with joy.

Merry Christmas to you all – from our house to yours.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Organizing the Old Fashioned Way

I have been frustrated with all the time I spend on the computer keeping records of my finished paintings.  My inventory of paintings was kept on Excel spreadsheets and updating the information was a chore.  Last night I printed out all my Excel spreadsheets and, while watching television, I transferred all that information onto old-fashioned index cards.  One card for each painting, listing title, size, inventory number and price, leaving the rest of the card for present location and comments.  Now I can update the information quickly without going to the computer.  Cards listing sold paintings are filed in a separate section.  If available, the customer’s information is added to the card along with any personal comments.  This gives me quick access to my customer list. 

I've always kept a physical logbook of my paintings.  Each finished painting is entered, with title and size and given an inventory number that includes the date.  This book has always worked well and so should my new index card system.  The convenience of instant access without going to the computer will save me time and aggravation.  How do you handle your inventory records?  Your comments and questions are always welcome.

The next problem to solve will be working with all the digital photographs I take and the hours needed to crop, re-size and file.  Any suggestions?

Thanks for visiting,


Friday, December 20, 2013

My New Ebay Page

View from the Park, Belfast, Maine 5x7, oil.

We have been selling on Ebay for a number of years.  Mostly old truck parts from my husband’s hobby of restoring vintage trucks, and other stuff we have picked up during our antiquing days.  Cleaning out my studio one day, I realized that I had a lot of studies and small, fun paintings from over the years.  I decided to add them to our Ebay page.  They sold.  So I decided to start my own page to separate my work from old truck parts and other old stuff.  In addition to specially priced studies and small, fun paintings, I have added a few new originals. 

I use Ebay's 30-day Fixed Price format with Best Offer instead of the auction format.  This allows for immediate purchase – no bidding, no waiting for the auction to end.  All major credit cards accepted through Paypal Check-out. The response has been very good and I have sold work across the country and beyond.  I will be adding the successful paintings from the January 30/30 Challenge as they are completed.  I hope you will take a look.

Thank you for visiting. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

30 paintings in 30 days

I signed up for a "30 paintings in 30 days challenge" from artist, Leslie Saeta. Below is an excerpt from her blog.  It sounds like a fun challenge and a great way to stay motivated in cold, snowy January.  I've attached her link below. She will allow you to post your paintings on her blog, add a selling price and a link back to you so you could possibly sell from her blog.  Your paintings can also be shared on Facebook.  This is a great offer from a generous artist.  I hope my students will consider participating.

From Leslie - 

"I know you are all swamped with the holidays.  But you need to take a moment and consider joining me for the 30 in 30 Challenge in January. I did it twice last year and it changed my art career.  You should too.

It's really easy to join the Challenge.  The January 2014, 30 in 30 Challenge is very simple and easy.  All you need to do is paint 30 paintings in 30 days.  You can post your paintings daily here on my blog to share and I hope my blog will offer encouragement for those of you who might fall behind, need inspiration or have no idea what to paint! I am doing this challenge for a lot of reasons,  Personally, I need to paint more so I know this challenge will get me in my studio every day.  I also firmly believe that if you paint more regularly you will improve your painting skills dramatically,  I am sharing this with you because the 30-Day Challenge last January and September were awesome."

Click here to register.   Leslie Saeta, Blog, 30 in 30 January 2014

Thank you for visiting,


Friday, December 13, 2013

Computer Time

I spent the whole day updating my website and putting my paintings on Pinterest. 
Now it's time for a big glass of wine! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Understanding the Color Wheel

My Tuesday class was a review on color theory.  Painting is like a balancing act.  One weak point and it all comes tumbling down.  As you learn new aspects of painting, some of the earlier ones are overlooked or ignored.  So it was requested that I explain color from the beginning again.

Whether you use the standard color wheel or the Munsell wheel, the basic theories apply.  The only difference I can see between the two color wheels is that the Munsell wheel limits orange and expands the blue range.  Adding a bit more blue to all your color mixes would satisfy the Munsell theory.  It pays to study the color wheel to learn the relationships of dominant color and complement and their discords.  I use the standard color wheel in my classes.

Okay, back to the basics – For successful color mixing you need to understand the three properties of color.  First, decide what basic color the object in question is.  It can only be one of six colors – yellow, orange, red, violet, blue or green.  Don’t think in terms of brown, gold, peach, aqua, etc.  Then the questions –

  1. What is its Hue?  Looking at the color wheel, determine which immediate neighbor the color leans toward.  If your color is yellow – does it lean toward orange or toward green?  Another aspect of hue is temperature.  As the color leans toward its cooler neighbor, it becomes cooler; as it leans the other way toward its warmer neighbor, it becomes warmer.  (So now you know how you can easily adjust the temperature of a color.)

  1. What is its Tone?  I ask my students to think in terms of black and white.  Is it light, medium or dark?

  1. What is its Intensity?  How bright or saturated is the color?  If the color is yellow, is it the intensity of a lemon, or dull like tarnished brass, or somewhere in between?

And now the role of the complement.  Because light is composed of the three primary colors – yellow, red and blue, all three colors are needed to reproduce colors in a natural way.  These three primaries are the base for all colors.  Looking at the color wheel, we see that the color’s complement is directly opposite the color.  Interestingly, a color and its complement contain all three primaries.  Without the introduction of the complement, colors look raw and garish. The complement will calm a color that is too bright.  A bit of the complement is added to the shadow side of an object to darken and slightly neutralize the color.  And the complement is the opposite color temperature and gives you a nice play of warm and cool.  Fascinating stuff.

Neutrals.  Mixing a color with its complement produces colorful and very useful neutrals.  They can be either warm or cool, depending on the proportion of colors used.  This mixture can be further adjusted with white to make soft, colorful grays. The use of neutral or subdued colors is very important in your painting as most colors straight from the tube are too intense to be used alone.

And the discords.  They are the small bits of spice that adds excitement and balance to your painting. They are most effective in the focal area. The discords form an equilateral triangle on the color wheel with the dominant color at one of the three points.  Together these three points contain all three primary colors. As an example, if your dominant color is green, then orange and purple are your discords.

Taking the time to understand color theory will give you a good starting point. I believe color harmony in a painting is more important than exactly replicating the colors you see.  Once you understand the theory of color, you will be able to make proper artistic choices.  This is just the beginning of the fascinating world of color theory. You will learn more as you continue painting, experimenting and studying.

Thank you for visiting,



Monday, December 9, 2013

Goodbye, Sophie Dog


Today we lost our twelve year old Golden Retriever to canine lymphoma. She will be laid to rest under the Dog Tree.  Four dogs will now be sleeping under that tall pine tree in our back field and she will rest in good company. We will miss her terribly. She was a wonderful dog and our constant companion.  I know that when we look across the fields, we will still see her running through the tall grass.  And when we get in the car and look in the rear view mirror, she will be sitting on the back seat.  Sleep well, Sophie Dog.  We love you.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sorrento, Maine

Sorrento, Maine

Brenda is ready to set up her easel.

Sorrento, Maine.  Warm summer memories on this cold and dreary December day.

Brenda Haley and I are both members of The Plein Air Painters of Maine. Sorrento is about 2 hours from home and a few miles up the coast from Bar Harbor. Maine.

Now our summer gear is packed away and soon it will be snowing. Time to light the woodstove, turn on the music, set up a still-life and settle down for some studio time.

Thanks for visiting.




Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little Brass Horse, oil 12x16

Little Brass Horse, oil, 12x16
Finished painting and setup.

Composition and Discipline

The painting is placed in a frame and set aside to dry in my studio.  As I glance at it in the days to come, I’ll look for passages that bother me.  I also took a photo and viewed it on my computer screen.  When I did that, I noticed the horse’s right leg looked odd and made a note to correct the highlight.  The correction will be made after the paint dries to avoid smudging the paint and creating a major repair.

When the painting is dry, some colors will be dull; others may appear faded.  I will apply a coat of a medium, such as Liquin, to bring back the shine.  I’ll then decide if I need to strengthen any areas with a glaze of transparent color or intensify the highlights with opaque paint.  This is not the time to make major corrections.  My composition should have been correctly established at the beginning.  Any major corrections at this time would require scraping and repainting.  The spontaneous effect would be lost and the painting could have a labored appearance.  

Most of us are so eager to begin applying paint that we neglect the composition, which is the foundation of our painting.  A good composition

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Leaving Gertrude Home

I want to continue with my thoughts from my last post.  “My thoughts”, because as I tell my students, I can only teach you what I believe and if my thoughts and techniques are not working for you, you need a different teacher.  No hard feelings.  We all see things differently and I can only teach what I believe.

The last post was about Gertrude.  The untrained student believes their painting should look exactly like the setup.  These paintings often look stiff and can actually feel uncomfortable to look at.  You know something is wrong – but what is it?

A good painting has the qualities of rich color, simplicity, strong values and mystery.  The richness of color and color harmony can be achieved by working with a limited palette.  Simplicity is another important quality.  Too many objects with too much detail diminish the strength of the focal point.  Mystery is found in strong tonal contrasts and in the play of lost and found edges and unexplained passages.  Looking at a fully detailed, hard-edged painting can be as exciting as reading a technical manual.  The answers are all there.  You have told the whole story, leaving no room for the viewer to enter his feelings into the painting. 

When I set up a still life, I begin at the focal point - the object or area that is the star of the show.  I then add objects that compliment but not detract from the star.  I can diminish the strength of these supporting players by losing their edges into shadows and by subduing their tonal contrast and color intensity, saving the strongest values and color for my star.  Anything that detracts from the focal point becomes a Gertrude.  I modify the colors and shapes to fit my concept.  To put emotion into your painting, you must have a feeling for your setup.  In class, we often have multiple setups.  It is very hard to paint something that doesn't appeal to you. 

There is a difference between being a painter and being an artist.  A painter paints the subject.  An artist paints his response to the subject.  An artist knows there is more to painting than merely replicating an object.  It is learning how concept, composition, shape, value, color, edges and the technical skills of paint application and brushstrokes all work together in harmony.  As you study you will begin to see the world through the eyes of an artist.  You will lose your preconceived notions of what things look like.  Try it – really look at the objects around you, notice the subtle color shifts in light and shadow and how edges appear and disappear.  It is a long and fascinating journey.  Enjoy yourself – and leave poor Gertrude home.

Thanks for visiting,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


In a previous post, I talked about my elephant with a damaged foot. As an artist, you don’t have to paint exactly what you see. This is a hard concept for some students to implement. I tell them that no one will ever see the setup. The objects will be put back on the shelf – but their painting will be there for all to see.

We begin by setting up a good still life composition, but often you need to make some adjustments. The shape of an object isn't quite right – modify it. Color not quite right – alter it. The elephant has a broken foot – fix it. I have a small brass horse with a missing tail – not a problem.

The late artist and teacher, Helen Van Wyk, had a name for painting a blemish just because it was there. She called it a “Gertrude”. Out of respect for Helen, I also refer to these distractions as “one of Helen’s Gertrudes”.

I find that after I lay in a painting, I don’t refer to my setup as often but continually judge the painting itself. The painting begins to take on a life of its own and I am now using the setup for reference only.

Your personal interpretation adds poetry to your painting, giving it life.  Replicating exactly what you see often results in a feeling of stiffness. All the objects, their relationship to each other, the shadows and the lighting need to join into a pleasing arrangement that sometimes can only be done on the canvas.You are working with pigments and their limitations. And you are trying to paint a three dimensional scene on a two dimensional surface.

This is also true for landscapes. Change an object's shape to better suit your composition, eliminate that distracting element, modify colors.  Make the changes that improve your painting.

The next time you add something that is not quite right “just because it was there”  (Oh, I have heard that statement in class so many times!) - just remember Gertrude.

Thank you for visiting.


Elephant and Grapes, oil 16x20

Elephant and Grapes, oil, 16x20 

On the way home from a day of painting at Boothbay Harbor with the Plein Air Painters of Maine, my friend and I stopped at a small antique shop.  I found this elephant on a high shelf.  He had a damaged foot but I loved him.  He is a creamy yellow with hints of orange – one of my favorite colors to work with.  And, of course, when I paint him, his foot is as good as new.  This makes us both happy.

This painting is available for purchase on my website.  Click here to view.

Thank you for visiting,

For more information please visit 
my website -  CeleneFarris.com

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Welcome Home, oil, 12x16

Welcome Home, oil, 12x16

This old house was located on the road between my home and Belfast.  I would pass it every day on my way to the gallery.  This tall house, with its stately manner and bay windows always made me think that it belonged on an island overlooking the sea instead of on the “flats” overlooking quiet pastures and woods.  Coming home in the evening, its welcoming light told me that I was almost home.  I stopped one night to snap a picture knowing that I had to paint it.  The house is now gone, replaced by a modern home and the road has lost some of its charm.  This painting hangs in my living room, and its light says “Welcome Home”.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thoughts on Teaching

One of the "crew" hard at work.
Thoughts on Teaching.

I have been teaching oil painting for over 15 years. My classes were held at my gallery in Belfast, Maine, but as the gallery grew, I gave up my classroom and moved classes to my home studio.

Over the years, my students have ranged in age from 9 years old in my Junior Class to over 80 years old in my Adult Class. Most of my students studied with me for many years. It was a joy to watch my 9 year olds grow into teens and after they graduated high school, I lost them to their new, busy adult lives.

My Adult Class has seen many students come and go. I do have my main students that have been with me for many years. We meet at my home studio weekly. They are my dedicated “crew” and work very hard to incorporate the principals and theories of oil painting into their work.

It is a misconception by non-artists that if you know a few rules you can easily create a good painting. The variables in a good painting are unlimited. Shapes, tones, color, edges, color harmony, lighting conditions, surface quality, linear and aerial perspective, composition – the list is endless and change with each painting. Landscapes, still-lifes, portraits – they all present their own set of variables.

When I was teaching at the gallery, summer visitors would stop in and sign up for a few lessons. They had just bought their first paint kit and wanted to learn to paint. They were the most difficult students, as they didn’t understand that it takes many years to grasp the principals of painting and more years of hard work to put these principals and theories together. I knew they would leave frustrated but hopefully these first few classes would peak their interest and they could go on from there. They also left with a greater appreciation of the art we displayed at the gallery.

It is my greatest pleasure to see my students enter shows and win awards. And to see the smile on their faces when they bring their ribbons and awards to class. We all celebrate together because we understand the hard work and commitment that has led to this achievement.

So, to any new student – don’t judge your abilities too soon. It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a good artist. Sometimes life gets in the way, so study, read art books, find a good teacher and keep painting. As your understanding and technical skills improve you will realize that all good artists are always students. The more you know about painting, the more you realize just how much more there is to learn. The road will be bumpy in places but don’t give up.  It is a fascinating journey.

For more information, please email me or visit my websites.

Thanks for visiting,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

After many long days at my computer, I think I finally understand the process for creating blogs and newsletters.  So, I’m giving it a try.  Please excuse any start up blunders.

My students have been after me to start a blog and a monthly newsletter, so I’ll start with a little about me and then go on to more interesting subjects.

I was born in Connecticut.  My husband and I have lived in Maine for over 40 years.  We have two sons and two grandchildren.  In my previous life, I worked in health care, retired after many years and went on to a new career as an artist, teacher and art gallery owner/operator.  I have been painting in oils for over 25 years and teaching for more than 15 years.  Now I am retired from the day-to-day art gallery operations, although I am still a gallery owner.  I still teach and, of course, paint.

In my newest venture, I want to slow down a bit and paint more – alone and with my artist friends.  So I have decided to gather my work from the galleries, eliminate the packing, traveling, etc. and focus closer to home.

My work may be seen on my website www.CeleneFarris.com; and on my Ebay site.

My next post will be about art, I promise.  Hope you’ll join me.  Please sign up to receive my blogs via your email.  You can opt out at any time, but I hope you will enjoy these visits to my studio.

And you can sign up for my soon to come, monthly newsletter here.

Thank you for visiting with me.