Wednesday, July 30, 2014

poppy project

poppy project, approx. 5" x 7", coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is a photo of my finished poppy. (The background looks uneven in this compressed version of the photo. In reality the background has been left as the white of the paper.)
 In a few weeks, this poppy will be available on-line for anyone and everyone to download. The project will include a line drawing you can trace onto your own paper and there will be palette suggestions as well as directions on how to colour your own version of this flower.
 This project will be a terrific way for coloured pencil newbies to try the medium, to get colouring right away and to get immediate results.
For someone already experienced in using coloured pencils, this will be something fun to work on in between your own drawings.

peony and poppy, both coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper, copyright Teresa Mallen

I placed the poppy next to my latest peony petal piece and snapped a pic. I know some people are skeptical about the range of values you can get with cps. I chose to use much darker values in the poppy and yet I didn't have to burnish. All sorts of things are possible with coloured pencils!
Once the project is ready for downloading, I will be letting you know here, on Facebook and in my I am pretty sure you won't miss the announcement. :-) I can't wait to see what everyone creates...send me some pics please!

Friday, July 25, 2014

no more boring art, get personal

It is Friday and my Friday newsletter has been published to my Newsletter Subscription usual, here is an excerpt...

(If you wonder what is in the newsletter that doesn't appear here, well there is some personal chat and this week I answer a question about my 2015 teaching schedule plus I also posted about my poppy project. I don't want to overwhelm blog readers with a lot of text so I just post the main article. If you would like to recieve the complete newsletter in your in-box each week, visit this link: newsletter)

This week I am going to chat about how as artists we can sometimes start to lose a sense of freshness with our work.

Let me ask you this, is your art feeling a little stale? Are feeling connected to it or do you sometimes feel you are just making ‘pretty’ pictures?

Today’s newsletter has a remedy. I shall give you one way you can really ramp up your connection and your enthusiasm for your art work.

Here is the cover of the latest issue of American Art Collector Magazine:
The artist who did the cover art is Heather Neill:  

(Her work is gorgeous; do take the time to check out her website. I especially like her room interiors.)

Heather’s work caught my attention from the moment I saw the magazine. I immediately wanted to know why she chose this subject.

Why did she choose to paint two older fellows, looking out to sea? I doubted she was enraptured by their um, buttocks! J

I suspected there was a story and I love art that tells a story or captures a mood; art that conveys something.

I quickly flipped through the magazine to read her story. Heather stated that she painted these two gentlemen just for herself and she said that these portraits were “very personal and straight from the heart”.

  She went on to say that “these portraits are all about love at the deepest part of my soul.” Woo-hoo. That is something to aspire to in our art!

One of the fellows in the painting was 97 yrs old and a long time friend. He died last year and his friend Pete, also in the painting, died shortly after. “I needed to see the two of them together – relating to each other but really relating to the ocean. They would sit together and wouldn’t look at each other and would exchange maybe five words in the three hours.”

So, there was a story and what she was painting was meaningful and personal for her.

So what does this have to do with you?    Well, I ask you, is your work personal?

Or are you just going through the motions, doing another still life, floral, or landscape even though you feel rather bored by it all? Maybe folks like these paintings, they expect this from you. Or perhaps you have done them so often you are comfortable, (and therefore safe, no risk involved if you do what you have already mastered). Maybe they sell well and you don’t want to rock the boat.

If your answer is yes, and you feel like your work has gone a bit stale and become a bit ho-hum why not try my fix:

My remedy is for you to examine your motives and put yourself back into the art making process.

Decide to do work that is personal, meaningful. Choose passion.

Even if you are a beginner, the best way to ensure that you will hang in there, doing what it takes to get better, is to do art that you want to do.

I occasionally hear people say that they took a drawing class and it wasn’t for them. When I start asking questions, I find out that they were drawing something that bored them to tears. Imagine spending every Monday night for 12 weeks drawing the same fruit basket arrangement. And yes, drawing classes like that do exist.

Why not draw and paint what you are passionate about?

If you want to draw dogs instead of still lifes, draw dogs! Simple, no?

(I took piano lessons as an adult and I couldn’t get into the kiddie stuff. I asked my teacher for something meaningful and she found me beginner classical stuff. I was soon learning a watered down version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and it was a darn site better than plunking along with train songs and froggie stories.)

Bottom line, your art supplies are at risk of getting covered in dust, if at some point your art doesn’t make your heart sing.

The next time you choose a subject, before you grab your paint brushes or pencils, ask yourself why you would spend time on this.

Is the subject meaningful to you, is there a story (and it is okay if only you know the story), does this ‘float your boat’, is there a flicker of love for the subject, some passion?  If the answer is yes, proceed with joy and enthusiasm. If not, I suggest you pass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

supernovas and leading edges

day lily, coloured pencil on Stonehenge, copyright Teresa Mallen

Lovely lilies are opening all over the place, yellow ones, deep burgundy ones and of course orange ones - as in the Day Lily above. Lilies are super low maintenance as well as pretty, which is fabulous.
I have several books on the go right now and one is by Danielle Laporte called the Fire Starter Sessions. Session 1 has us declaring our super-powers - as in "competency is for suckers". :-)
Danielle asks:
  • "Would you rather be sufficient or masterful?"
  • "Would you rather be bright or a freaking supernova?
  • "Would you rather be well-rounded or on your own leading edge?"
Well gee, I'll go with masterful, hum, a leading edge sounds kind of scary (makes me think of a ledge not an edge and I have a fear of falling) and I would have settled for bright cause that sounds rather perky and shiny but wait...
I can choose to be a freaking supernova?
Well sign me up for that! That sounds super juicy (and a bit blinding and explosive!)
Now what sort of art does a supernova create? :-)
How about you, are you well rounded, bright and sufficient or are you the super-power options?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coloured Pencil Basics - register now

I am teaching a two day, Coloured Pencil Basics course, in my studio (Ottawa, Canada) on September 20 and 27th. If you have always wanted to give cps a try (and you live close enough to attend), now is your chance.

The picture above shows the lower half of my studio with some lovely ladies busy working on a project. Connecting with other art loving, cp newbies is all part of the fun we have.

You will get all of the instruction and support you need, everything presented step-by-step, to get the results you are dreaming of! AND there is a super duper BONUS PACKAGE included.

To check out all of the details click here. You can conveniently register on-line as well. I can't wait to meet you! (Only three spots remain available, so don't wait or you might miss out. Space is limited in my studio and I therefore have to limit the number of students.)

If you don't live in the Ottawa area and you would love to take this course, I have great news for you - an on-line version will be offered early in 2015! I am working on it now. :-)

Friday, July 18, 2014

creating gorgeous skies, Friday Newsletter

(Newsletter excerpt for Friday July 18th)

One of my favourite things to do on a summer’s day is to sit on our front verandah and watch the sky – especially on days when there are lots of fast moving clouds.
I mention this because rendering skies – specifically clouds, is the topic of this week’s newsletter.

 A reader, Karen from Ohio, is also a huge fan of cloud watching. She wrote and asked for some tips on capturing clouds in her art. Here is an excerpt from her email,
“I have been reading your blog for a long time and I remember how you once posted about the cloud watching you were enjoying. I also love watching clouds and I was wondering if you could give me some ideas on things to consider when sketching and colouring clouds. Oh and I really like sunsets.”
This is a great question, thanks Karen (and I am delighted you have been a blog reader over the years).

 (This is a view from our verandah looking left. The roof top you can see in the lower left corner is the roof of our small log barn)
First up, let’s acknowledge that the sky can be a significant part of the drama of a landscape. A lot of artists focus so much on the scene they are depicting, whether rural buildings, a forest, or cityscape, that it seems as if the sky is kind of thrown in at the end, almost as an afterthought.

In terms of composition, there are various options to consider when painting skies. If you really want to make the sky the ‘star’ of the painting, I suggest you use a low horizon line. This would make the majority of your piece composed of sky. In this approach, with the sky as the center of interest, consider the foreground plane simply as comparatively dark shapes.

Position the line of the foreground as low as you dare. I would still create interesting darks, in those dark shapes. I am not suggesting flat, dark blobs. J

Of course clouds move along in a state of constant change so be prepared to work fast or snap some pictures to freeze the action.

If you are working in coloured pencil, a way to work faster would be to use coloured paper. Depending on your colour selection, you could have a mid-tone or darker value to work up from.

You could also use sketching paper and quickly note down the shapes and colours and then use these ideas to complete the work once the sky show is finished.

When composing your picture, take note of the interesting shapes that appear as the clouds roll, billow and form new shapes. Which shapes do you want to highlight or feature? Simply compose your sky the same way you would any other subject. Find areas of interest to draw attention to, choose a focal point.

Ask yourself what your goal is in depicting the clouds. Perhaps you wish to convey a mood. Skies can be calming and peaceful and they can also make us ponder the largeness of life.

Watching storm clouds approach can give us a sense of anticipation, as we await rain or wind. In the case of a particularly menacing sky, dark clouds can even evoke dread or fear.
another verandah view

 The key to a dramatic, powerful sky is to use lots of rich colour. Really look at those clouds and ask yourself what colours you see - what gray greens do you see, what shades of purple? Think way beyond blue sky and white clouds. Exaggerate these colours, the way you would when drawing a white flower or when colouring shadows.

Sunsets: sunsets are fleeting so the challenge is to get set up well in advance of the big show. Perhaps try working small, (at least at first, while you get your bearings in doing skyscapes) say 8x10 inches or 9x 12 in order to get what you want down, in the limited time you have.

Sunset Tip: When you are looking west, you are looking at cloud formations that are covering the lowering of the sun. The brightest colours – yellow, oranges, reds and purples – are usually on the underlying plane of the clouds. Use bright intense colours to paint sunsets, don’t hold back.

 another view of sky, barn roof and tree tops J

 Finally, I suggest viewing the work of artists that do clouds really well. Examine how they approach the subject. What is it about their work that you like? In your opinion, what are they doing well?

I really like the work of coloured pencil artist Priscilla Humay. Her website is and if you click here, you will go directly to a gallery page that shows her clouds. Her soft edges are dreamy and luscious.

I am also huge fan of Louisa McElwain’s work. Her landscapes have such intriguing skies. If you like palette knife painting and thick smears of oil paint, you should check out her work by clicking here.
Thanks Karen for a great question. If anyone else has a question they would like to see answered, please email me. I won’t use your full name so you can remain anonymous if you wish.

Monday, July 14, 2014

my Monday morning slap up the side of the head

My Monday morning started like any other. I grabbed a coffee and headed to my studio to do my scheduling. Every Monday morning I tear off huge sheets of paper and tape them to my studio walls and on these pages I write out all of my to-dos for the week, nice and big, in colourful markers. I function much more effectively with these large in your face lists as opposed to small desk planners.

After I had my mind and activities sorted for the days ahead, I decided to linger over my coffee, before walking the dog. My task would be to proof read my newsletter. I won't be publishing it until Friday but I wrote it yesterday and I wanted to have another look.

The topic of the article in the newsletter is tips on drawing/painting clouds (my response to a question from a newsletter reader). At the end of the article I wanted to share the art of one of my favourite landscape artists - who does clouds and skys that I love.

So la-di-dah, I go googling for a link to her art to place in the newsletter. Louisa has never done social media, no blogs, no website, no Facebook biz page so I knew I had to find something else. The galleries that carry her work always have some sort of press going on about her.

I wasn't prepared for what I discovered. My artist died last year. I stared at the screen in disbelief. It wasn't another woman with the same name, it was her. An obituary and posthumous praise from various galleries, all of it telling the horrible truth - this amazing artist was dead at 60.

I have been a fan of this woman's work for 23 years. I stumbled upon her art back in 1991, when she was a young wife and mother, still in her 30s. She was carving out a live for herself as a landscape painter based in Santa Fe New Mexico. Her work was just as powerful back then and over the years I would see her work in art magazines (the ones in which galleries post big ads featuring some of their best artists). I did try to 'follow her' but one would think she didn't own a computer as she remained silent. She lived the 'artist dream' of painting everyday, living well off the sale of her art and she didn't have to keep up with Facebook changes or html glitches on her website. Okay, maybe that is just my dream... :-)

I don't know how she died, whether it was a sudden, perhaps accidental death or a terminal illness. In the end, it doesn't matter. This incredibly talented person's artistic gifts to the world shall be no more.

I was not only a fan of her work but of her philosophies and her lifestyle. Her marriage ended and her two daughters grew up. Louisa realized her passion for the land not only through her painting but through farming. She raised Dexter cattle, had Norwegian horses, chickens and dogs, gorgeous gardens...simply my kind of peep.

I think we all need to find someone that we can relate to and boy, when I find an artist that also does the 'back to the land' thing, well let's just say I breathe a big sigh of delight and I feel like I am okay, normal, it validates my choices, which I am very well aware are not mainstream choices. Let's face it not everyone chooses to tie themselves down with livestock nor do they choose to muck stalls on a Sunday afternoon. (what I did yesterday :-) )

So what about my slap up the side of the head? (back to the title of the post in case I lost you)...well as I tried to wrap my mind around the reality that this wonderful woman had died so young, at the height of her game, at that moment, it seemed as if the grim reaper strolled through the studio and whispered to me, "So what are you waiting for?"

Okay, I admit, a big melodramatic but that is how I described the moment to my husband. Maybe it was the voice of my higher self, guiding angels, the Universe or my intuition...I don't care what label the Source has, I just got the message.

Now what do I do with it? Well, that is going to take some thinking. I have created a pretty dreamy life for myself and I thought all things were on track but still, this question, "So, what are you waiting for?" gave me chills. What if I were to die at 60? (insert sudden cuff to the side of my head). Is there something I am holding back from doing? Is there some big, grand art I need to get creating?

I did think of a possible fun tribute to Louisa.

I was putting feed in a goat manger later in the morning and I was thinking of all of this and I got the idea to go buy a large canvas, to dig out my ancient tubes of oil paint and some palette knives, load everything in my vehicle and head off to a favourite spot nearby to do a plein air landscape, big sky and all.  Louisa style...probably not something the public would ever see but hey... :-)

So why do I write all of this? Well, I believe we all inspire one another and I want to shake you up today. I want to rock your world with this question,

"So what are you waiting for?"

(and we can thank the grim reaper for that one, ha)

Last but definitely not least, here are three links to the incredible Louisa McElwain:

Friday, July 11, 2014

your summer reading list and your stash

My Friday newsletter just went out to my subscribers. Here is an excerpt that continues with my theme of how we can add art to our summer holidays...

What is on your summer reading list?

Have you noticed the book reviews that come up in early summer, citing all the hot picks and the recommended best sellers to take to the beach?

Well forget those lists.

Who needs the latest who-done-it or romantic drama? Not you – you have your own mysteries to solve and your own romance to immerse yourself in – and yes I shall explain...

But first up, I am going to get you rooting around in your stash again. And by the way, turns out many of you found some fun things in your stash exploration two weeks ago (thanks for the emails). I posted one of my own stash finds on my FB biz page. (in case you missed it:  Facebook )

This time though, we are not exploring your stash of unfinished work, we are exploring your stash of art books. Yes, those piles of books that normally gather dust in the various corners of your house are now going to get your attention.

You are an art lover – which inevitably means that over the years you have acquired books - probably lots of them – everything from how to books, to coffee table sized art picture books, to biographies. Oh and let’s not forget about art magazines, maybe you have a few of those. (I have way more than a few.)

You assignment is to go find those books and magazines.

Forget the book store’s who-done-it, go solve your own mystery – pick up that book on colour theory (or whatever topic you have wanted to know more about), perhaps that beginners book on oil or pastel or whatever medium you thought you wanted to learn about. Seek to solve the mystery this summer by examining these books closely.

Romance – hum, well a lot of us eventually end up taking art for granted, it is just this ‘thing’ in our lives. Now is the perfect time to fan those flames of interest and to fall back in love with everything about art.

A fabulous way to do this is to gaze upon the gorgeous art in your books. How can you not get stirred up when viewing such delights? Seriously folks, this works. You will find yourself stirred up, suddenly feeling the urge to grab that sketch pad or the canvas or perhaps even motivated to sign up for a course.

(And guess who has just a few spots left in two coloured pencil courses this fall? Click here for details: classes)

Besides your stash, your local library is another great resource for some free reading to take to the deck or the cottage. Take out a book on a medium or a style of art that you thought you didn’t like (dare to get reacquainted), grab a biography on a famous artist (turns out they struggled with the same stuff you do) or explore your favourite time in art history.  Your library will have some of those gorgeous coffee table books too but be warned, they can make that beach bag pretty heavy to carry!

So here is your call to action, finish this newsletter, then leave your computer and go find those art books. It will be like hearing from a friend that you haven’t heard from in ages...relish the delights of reconnecting.

I would love to hear what you found to read this summer. You can leave a comment on my FB page, on my blog or you can write me an email.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

poppy updates

Poppy Project Stage 3, copyright Teresa Mallen

Poppy Project Stage 4, copyright Teresa Mallen

I haven't spent too much time on this but I have progressed from the 'looking purple' stage - in most spots anyway. I really love work-in-progress pictures. I find it fun to see a work develop.
This will look so much better when I have coloured the stem, added the border I plan on framing it with and of course the petals need more work. I shall post more as soon as I get the chance to work on it.
Please note that the paper is white, despite how the background is looking on your computer screen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

fun summer art project

 Happy 4th of July to my American readers!!!! Here is an excerpt from my July 4th, Newsletter.
(I send out a newsletter to my newsletter subscribers each week, which they receive in their in-box. If you would like to join the Newsletter Group, click here.)
Last week, I mentioned that I would be giving you the instructions for a project that you could do with the children in your life this summer. It’s here and I really think you will have a great time working on it.

I invite you to share this fun project with any parent, grandparent, babysitter or care giver that you know. Let’s get everyone colouring this summer!

Summer 2014 Colouring with Kids Project

Here is my drawing, which my idea is based on...


Fun looking chap, isn’t he?

I have personally tested this project out on young school children and it was a big hit.

[I don’t normally teach kids and this particular work assignment – going into a school to teach art programs for children in grades 1 through 8 was an experience never to be repeated. I am not gifted at disciplining children. On one occasion, I stood by and laughed along as two 12 yr old boys held down another friend and painted his face – it was a funny moment. And really, what else are boys going to do with paint brushes and paint but put it where it doesn’t belong? The lad who was painted up enjoyed the attention, just in case you are wondering, and we all suffered the ‘look’ of the Principal who walked by at that moment. Oops.]

But back to the fish...this is super simple and the secret to the success is that you create the fish on a sheet of plastic. Kids really like the novelty of this.

Supplies you need:

·        Some sheets of clear plastic film (not the frosted stuff) Mylar and Dura-Lar are brand names you could look for. You should be able to buy the sheets at an art supply store or an office supply store. Ask an employee for help.

·        A sheet of white paper per child. Doesn’t have to be special art paper, can be computer paper.

·        Coloured Pencils – these do not have to be professional grade. You can use any that you have on hand and/or you could use watercolour pencils.

·        A pencil sharpener

·        coloured sheets of paper such as construction paper or Bristol board

·        tape or mounting putty


Draw the outline of a fish on a regular piece of paper. You can get the idea of what I used by looking at my drawing above. Who creates the drawing depends on the age and ability of the child. If you are working with young children, it will probably be best if you do this part and they can do the colouring. If you want to get species specific here, you can involve the children and look for pictures in books or on-line for inspiration. Some children will know a lot about fish!

Have the child place the drawing under the sheet of clear plastic.

Next, using the coloured pencils, the child will trace the outline of the fish. The line drawing can then be removed from underneath and passed on to another child.

Depending on the surface you are working on, it might be a good idea to place a white sheet of paper under the fish work-in-progress. That way the pattern on the table cloth or counter top will not show through and be a distraction.

The child continues to colour the fish in any way they wish.

Colouring tip: You can colour both sides of the Mylar. If you put one colour on one side and another colour on the same spot on the other, they will optically blend to create a new colour.

Various species of fish can be created. Make big ones, little ones, all different colours. Create a school of fish!

If girls are not into drawing fish, perhaps they might like to draw a mermaid, think long hair and a fish tail with lovely bright scales.

The air bubbles can be expanded to make conversation bubbles, like in cartoons. The kids can have their fish talking to one another. This part may need some adult supervision. Apparently some fish talk nasty. (Who knew?)

Here is the fun part – place different sheets of coloured paper/construction paper or Bristol board behind the fish and see how the drawings change! Orange paper will have the fish swimming in an orange ocean and by the way, this looks very cool. J

Using tape or mounting putty, the paper and the fish drawings can be mounted on a window or on a wall as a mural. Sunlight coming through the window will also impact the finished look.

 There are lots of tie-ins here – if you go to the beach you can collect small shells to glue onto your mural or to place on the window ledge. If you are staying at a cottage this summer, you could look up the types of fish that are found in the lake you are on. If you visit an aquarium, you will have lots of ideas for drawings!

 Besides mermaids, your fish window/wall can also have other ocean creatures depicted. You can move on to drawing an octopus or rocks for the fish to swim amongst. You could even create a collage by adding cut outs from magazines.

 This project is addictive – think of tracing real fallen leaves in autumn, colouring them on the plastic and then creating a falling leaves scene.

 Final tip: you can create cut outs of your images too which helps if you wish to place the fish in certain locations or positions (instead of having to place the whole sheet).

 And that is all there is to it, a simple drawing, some simple materials and loads of fun that all ages can enjoy.

If you do this, I would love to see what you create. You can send me a picture - hint hint... :-)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

gorgeous moth and new work

This gorgeous moth was sitting on the ground last evening, just outside of our barn door. Fortunately it stayed there long enough for me to go and get the camera.
A thunderstorm had just gone through our area and there was a big fat rainbow in the sky. Both were such unexpected gifts of beauty...

This flower is my current work in progress. I am creating a step-by-step, how-to project that will be made available to the public in a few weeks. This free download will be my way of thanking everyone that has chosen to be part of the TMS journey.

At this point in the drawing, I am simply road mapping with two colours, establishing values and finding my way around the shapes of the petals. I know it looks rather purple at this stage, but eventually it will be an orange poppy or perhaps orangy-red.

This morning the moth was gone, there were no rainbows - just a fox coming across the lawn looking for a meal. The chickens quickly took cover under a tree near the goats. I was actually in the goat yard on the other side of the tree. When I heard the chickens squawking their 'alarm' call I went running. The goats were dashing about (they know what that chicken sound means) and by the time I saw the fox, it had already sized up the situation and turned around. The goats, just by being goats, have scared off more than one fox over the past few years. Still, I went after the fox to deter it from returning. It went running off down the road. Soon crows up in the field were voicing their own alarm.

I shall be keeping watch from my studio windows today...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

old and forgotten

dahlia work in progress from many years ago, never finished,
coloured pencil on Stonehenge, copyright Teresa Mallen

Did you go looking through your stash like I suggested last Friday? (see my previous post if you missed the excerpt from my newsletter) I loved the stories a few of you shared via email. Seems like we all found a few 'gems'. :-)
In a recent rummage through my own pile of unfinished work, I came across the dahlia shown here. Gosh, this is a very old piece, started when I was very new to working in coloured pencil.
I abandoned it because I became uncertain...I wasn't sure if the look was right - I was applying so much pigment that somehow it was becoming burnished and I hadn't wanted that. Up until then all of my work was more airy. I had always allowed some tooth of the paper to show through. I loved that look (still do) and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue.
I also fretted over my use of dark purple to do the 'lines' in the petals. Things were starting to look kind of stylized.  Turns out that was just my future style starting to emerge. :-)
I got frightened and decided to quit before I had spent too many more hours on the piece. In the end, I started fresh and did another one. It made it to the finish! I worked slowly, mindful of burnishing. I learned a lot about technique from these early works and I learned about the artist I was going to be.
I find it amuzing that I was worried about getting too stylized...this from the woman that years later would create this from a leaf of chard...

Swiss Chard Mosaic, coloured pencil on Colourfix Paper, copyright Teresa Mallen

I won't leave the unfinished dahlia in my stash. The drawing is fine and what I have done so far is good. I will finish it, with confidence this time, for once enjoying the burnishing side of coloured pencil.