How A Fruit Bowl Painting is Like a Living Room

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in General | No Comments

I paint in layers, particularly when a painting is very particular. (Heh heh. . .  how is that for being articulate?) First, the shapes get roughed in (and I mean ROUGHED). Then, the basic color is laid down thinly. Then, details begin, but not too exact and the color isn’t too fussy yet. Because I know it has to be gone over multiple times, I don’t get too worked up about precision yet.

fruitbowl oil painting in progress

Since I last showed you this, I’ve added new detail to the window on the right and repainted the curtains behind the window pane on the left. The onions, avocado, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 1 orange are looking good for now. “For now” because once the rest is recovered, they may no longer meet my new standards.

Next, I’ll fix the 2 tomatoes, the remaining lime and lemon and orange. That will show what a mess the bowl and the table top are, so they will need to be redone.

Then, I’ll look at the whole painting again and see if anything else can be improved.

It reminds me of just adding a couple of new pillows to the couch. Suddenly, the shabbiness of the couch is evident. Then, when the couch is replaced, the 2 chairs no longer are up to snuff. (What does that mean?) When the chairs are replaced, the curtains become unacceptable. Those get replaced, and then the rug looks cruddy, and on and on it goes.

I’m not showing you any photos of my living room.

Crescent Meadow in Triplicate

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in commissions | No Comments

“Triplicate” is not to be confused with “triptych”. It means in three parts, but not the same way as a triptych. That means one painting in three parts.

Never mind.

oil painting of Crescent Meadow by Jana Botkin

I probably paint better now.

I hope so.

A customer stopped by my studio and said he’d bought a painting of Tharp’s Log for his son a year or so ago. Now he wanted to buy something to go with it, and he remembered it had been shown with a painting of Crescent Meadow. (If you have visited Sequoia National Park, then you probably know that one begins the walk to Tharp’s Log at Crescent Meadow.) Of course the painting had sold.

Doesn’t that sound snotty? “Of course the painting had sold.”

I showed him the photos of previous paintings of Crescent Meadow until he said, “That’s it!” He asked me to paint it again for him. By way of reassuring me it isn’t wrong to repaint the same scene, he told me the story of Gilbert Stuart, who painted George Washington over and over and over, possibly even in the same pose.

It did make me feel better – thanks, Bill! I’ve been doing the same scenes over and over for years and wondered if it was cheating!

Since I needed to paint one for this man who lives far away to give to his son who lives even further away, I decided to paint 2 of them. As long as I have to mix up the paint colors, it makes sense to me.

It is similar to Marilyn’s saying, “Cook once, eat twice”.

Crescent Meadow oil paintings in progress


Now they are drying so that I can add more detail on top, including some wildflowers. Notice the two are not identical. That would be too hard for this California Artist who is working hard on not being bound to her photos.

A Love-Letter to my Blog Readers

Posted by on Oct 29, 2012 in Sources of inspiration | No Comments

Dear Gentle Blog Reader,

You know I love writing my blog, right?

Did you know that I have more ideas than there are days in the week? Did you know that I love telling you about my life as a California artists in li’l ol’ Tulare County (AKA Quaintsville)?

Did you know that I love getting emails and comments from you?

I love words, putting them together, playing with them, learning new ones, finding great expressions from other people and stealing borrowing them.

I love photos, places around here that are beautiful, and showing them to you. And in spite of being a Regionalist, I love finding new beautiful places.

I love detail, realism, authenticity, learning to paint better, mixing colors from the primaries, and drawing.

I love teaching people to draw.

Thanks for letting me share the love,

Jana, the Regionalist from Quaintsville

Mineral King in Fall

The weekend of October 19-21 was a glorious time of clear weather and stunning color in Mineral King. It seems as if has been many years since the color was that good up there. Perhaps it has been that good, but I wasn’t there. In my memory, there were no reds, and the yellows sometimes blew off before hitting peak color. But, I don’t keep a journal other than my photos and this blog, so I could have missed it.

This is a source of inspiration to this California Artist. Hope it inspires you to think great thoughts, create something, stimulate the economy, or just be nice.

Farewell Gap in Fall photo by Jana Botkin

Farewell Gap in Fall

Mineral King Aspens photo by Jana Botkin

Mineral King Aspens

Timber Gap in Fall photo by Jana Botkin

Timber Gap in Fall

A wise friend (actually, several of them) suggested I remind my Gentle Blog Readers that my photos are available for purchase.

5×7 – $10, 8×10 – $20. Any larger than that? I don’t fully trust my pixels.

How to buy? email me at cabinart at cabinart dot net (several someones wiser than me have advised that is the best way to put eddresses into blog posts – I think you’ll figure it out!)

To be continued next Friday, because Fridays are for Mineral King on this blog.

Other New Painting of Three Rivers

Posted by on Oct 25, 2012 in Three Rivers | 2 Comments

Told you I’d be back! Okay, I didn’t say that – I said “Tomorrow” which is now today.

The other very popular subject to paint in Three Rivers – wait for it – ooh, bet you can guess – The Kaweah River!!

Kaweah River in Fall oil painting

The Kaweah River in Fall, 10×10″, oil on wrapped canvas, $130

Available through Colors, the Three Rivers gallery.

New Painting of Three Rivers

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Three Rivers | No Comments

There are two subjects for painting that are always popular in Three Rivers.  Here is one of my latest:

Kaweah Post Office VIII oil painting

The Kaweah Post Office VIII, 8×8″, $75, oil on wrapped canvas

Available through Colors in Three Rivers

But Wait! There’s More:

Sorry. Tomorrow!

A Zillion Ways to Paint

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in General | 6 Comments

About 6-1/2 years ago I began oil painting. I knew nothing. I asked lots of questions of anyone who painted, bought some tools and paint, and started. I knew nothing.

fruit bowl painting in progress

I signed up for classes at the crafts chain Michael’s and attended 2 of the 4 classes. I signed up for a class at the local junior college and completed half a semester. I read books. I asked more questions. I read websites and blogs and watched videos.

This is what I learned:

1. Use a limited palette. (defined differently by each person who says this)

2. Only use the best paints.

3. Don’t waste your money on good paint – the cheaper brand of Winton is just fine.

4. Only buy the best brushes.

5. Get the cheapest brushes on sale at Michael’s.

6. Finish your paintings in one pass  – ” alla prima”.

7. Don’t lick the canvas with your brush – be EXACTLY sure of where you want the paint to go before you apply it.

8. Paint in layers, from lean to fat (which no one has yet adequately defined).

9. Use liquin.

10. Never use liquin – use “this” formula (which varies depending on the speaker/writer/teacher).

11. Don’t use any formula – use pure linseed oil.

12. Paint plein air (meaning outside on location)

13. Don’t attempt plein air until you are really comfortable with painting.

14. Paint large, at least 16×20.

15. Paint small so you can get lots of practice on many paintings and sell to people who are low on money and low on wall space.

16. Don’t copy anyone’s style.

17. Copy the old masters.

18. Take all the workshops you can find.

19. Don’t take any workshops – learn your own style.

20. Only use a glass palette, preferably backed by a grey cardboard piece.

21. Use disposable palettes.

22. Use a cheap palette and cover it with wax paper so you never have to scrape it.

23. Wait a year before varnishing.

24. Don’t varnish – it will turn yellow.

25. Use spray varnish as soon as you finish painting.

26. Look at your painting in a mirror – always have a mirror in the studio.

27. Look at your painting upside down.

fruit bowl painting in progress

I’m confused. Are you?

Bowlafruit Critique

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in Lessons, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Last week I showed you this watercolor painting by Jim, who asked me for a critique.

This is what I told him:

“Wow, you are a get-‘er-dun kind of guy! Love the title too. . . (I’m puzzling over what to call my painting of the same scene that isn’t too dumb, obvious and boring)

“Your shapes look great, the textures are convincing and the colors of the fruit are bright.

“3 suggestions for a little better results (just to push it up a level):

“1. If the background part of the reflection is darker than looking out onto the grass (wow, so cumbersome to find words when if we were together I could just point!), then it will have more impact. This is because the contrast will be greater both between the inside and outside of the window, and between the reflections of fruit and background.

“2. Edges of reflections and shadows should be fuzzy EVEN IF they appear sharp in life or in a photo. It helps the viewer know which is real and which is an illusion (bring to mind that poem at the end of Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues – I loved that song in 8th grade)

“3. I know nothing of watercolor so this might be useless information but here goes. . . the shadows on your lemon and lime look as if you just put black there (could be the monitor, the photo, the airwaves between your town and Three Rivers. . .) When I want a shadow in oil, I mix a darker version of the same color. Often shadows will show in a photo as black, but we have to disregard that visual information and make the color be a real color. (stupid deceptive lying sneaky cheating photos)”

And here is Jim’s reply:

“Thanks so much for your quick response…I understand everything you said, and I appreciate it, especially about the shadows on the fruit. I didn’t know that, so, wow, that’s valuable information. I really thank you, also, for your encouragement. I want to get to the point where I call myself and artist and BELIEVE it.

Blessings, my friend,


“Oh, and feel absolutely free to use any of my stuff on the blog; that’s the purpose, right? Even throw your suggestions to me on there if you desire. There’s so much we can all learn from each other in this world if we’re honest.”

Jim is smart, nice, funny, hard-working, and talented. (Forget it – he is married!)

Mineral King in the Fall

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Mineral King | 4 Comments

October is one of the best months in Mineral King. (The other great months are June, July, August, and September.) I went looking through my 18,693 photos to find some of my favorites from fall in the past. Since I’ve only had a digital camera since 2007, that’s as far back as the photos go. And, you’ll have to wait for my favorite photo of 2012. How’s that for a “cliff-hanger”?

Mineral King in fall, 2007

Mineral King in fall, 2008

Mineral King in fall, 2009

Mineral King in fall, 2010

Mineral King in fall, 2011


Posted by on Oct 18, 2012 in Lessons, Thoughts | 2 Comments

A man named Jim took drawing lessons from me. His real desire was to learn to paint with watercolor, but he is a very smart guy and knew he needed to hone his drawing skills first. After several private lessons (in which the student learns at an accelerated rate), he was off and running.

Jim saw my photo of the Most Beautiful Fruit Bowl I’ve Ever Seen and asked permission to paint it. I’ve got a strong attachment to all my drawing students, both past and present, and it is my goal to help each one further their art skills. Besides, I was flattered, so of course I said yes.

He sent the painting to me and asked for a critique. That sort of request can be weird between people. If you don’t know the person really well or haven’t established an honest relationship, it can be a real sticky wicket. (No, I have no idea what that expression really means.) Does the asker just want reassurance that his work is good? Does he want suggestions?

It is a very important part of my drawing lessons that we are honest with one another. Your mom and your best friend and your little sister will say “Wow! That is beautiful! You really draw good!” If you overlook their grammar and manage to resist the effort to correct them, you can bask in the praise.

It feels good but it isn’t very helpful. When you are among people who draw, people you trust to be kind while speaking the truth, and you are able to hear the truth without resisting and arguing, you can really improve your art and your skills.

You can learn both from being the critique-er and from being the critique-ee. For that reason, I frequently ask my students to let me have it about my own work, and we all enjoy the process.

Jim and I established that sort of relationship when he took lessons from me, so I felt comfortable telling him the truth about his painting. Here it is for you to see, and next week I will share the conversation we had about it.

Bowlafruit, watercolor, by Jim