September 30, 2015

Beginning the Exploration of Me on Paper

       This weekend, I decided to start something that combines two things that  I've heard are good for art artists.  For the next month, I want to do a sketch of me each day.  It will be good drawing practice, and will challenge my creativity.
        Since I want the practice to be interesting for me, I'm going to working from pictures and try to capture me at odd times and at different angles.  The first image I used was a selfie I took very close up, and from an odd angle.  Even in the photograph, I almost don't recognize myself.  I like the attitude I have and the unusual angle, as well as the face that the right side of my face is so heavily shadowed.  It adds a nice third major value to the piece.
                                                                                                     The second drawing is based on a picture my husband took of me when I was sitting in bed and texting a sponsee (I'm in a 12 Step program and I sponsor).  Arny has pictures of me talking to sponsees at monasteries, castles, beaches, etc., so he thought it would be neat to take a picture of me at home doing the same thing.  

         The third day's sketch of the challenge to myself is of me at a mid distance.  It's from a picture Arny took of me at Longwood Gardens.  (It's a world-famous ornamental garden within an easy drive from us -- I LOVE I can do that.)   I am in a watercolor sketching group, and I decided to try out a technique I learned there and applied to a floral sketch I did yesterday.  After I laid the basic shapes with pencil, I used washes to define and add depth to the piece.  I then went in and used a Bick fine-line marker to give some final definition to the piece.  I discovered something important for the future if I use that technique again.  I did realize that the paper was still wet in the area of my face, so when I went to define my mouth, the ink ran --making me look as if I were trying out for the role of "Joker" in a Batman movie.  I thought about the material I had and made a great discovery -- a combination of the the white (and later the orange) "Inktense" pencil covered a lot of the offending run areas.  Yea!   I like the wash and pen combo, but from now on, I'll either wait for the washes to totally dry or use a permanent marker.  I'll periodically post my self-portraits over the month. Check them out!

September 29, 2015

Flowers for Betty, WC on sketch pad
by Tracy Fledman
I'm working on sketching more, and here are two watercolor sketches that I did yesterday.  I had committed to bringing a meal to a friend who was getting an operation. As I shopped for ingredients at Costco, I ran across these flowers, and I thought, "how nice to bring some flowers to cheer her".  Thus, I bought some to give to her and draw.  After buying, them, however, I realized I didn't know if she or her family had flower allergies, so I split the bunch in two, figuring 3 blossoms would cause fewer problems than I whole bunch.  That gave me the opportunity to sketch "Betty's flower" and "My flowers".  I experimented with this putting down color first and then adding ink from a marker to better define the shape.  I love that when people do that.  It was neat, but I realized that using an ultra-fine tip marker would have worked better.  
Flowers for Me, WC on sketch pad
by Tracy Fledman

    The funny thing is that after I left the meal and flowers on my friend's stoop, she called me and explained she wasn't going into surgery until Wednesday. Oops!  I feel a little like Winnie the Poo when he did all that work to build a home for Eeyore -- only to later discover that the pile of sticks he found to build it were already the "home" the donkey had built for himself.  Fortunately, like Eeyore, my friend appreciated the outcome -- even if the effort was a little off in some ways.   I used my inexpensive sketch pad to do the drawings, and used watercolors, a Bbic marker, and a white gel pen.

September 4, 2015

Oil Sketch #2 for the Dahlia Commission

Dahlia Sketch from the front -- 16 x 20 Oil on Gallery-wrapped canvas
 This is the second of the Dahlia oil sketches I created as part the process for my last commission. But because I wanted to focus on the large commission, as you can tell (by comparing the sketch to the left to the painting below),  I decided to put aside this piece until now.  Creating the piece wasn't a waste of time --even at this stage of its development, the work helped my client realize which version of the image most appealed to her.  

Dahlia of My Heart (commission)
 I'm really happy I kept the unfinished sketch at the studio to inspire me as I worked on the final piece. It also proved very helpful when I met with my client near the end of the painting process.  The meeting's purpose was to find out how she wanted to have me finish the work-- specifically how she wanted me to handle the 1.5" sides of this gallery-wrapped canvas.  

I explained to her that I could go two ways. If she wanted the work to have a more traditional presentation when hung, I could paint the sides black and she'd have the painting framed.  If, however, she wanted to have the work have a modern feel, I'd wrap the image around the sides and put a hanger on the back of the piece.  I explained that if she wanted the latter,  she'd be able to have a beautifully finished piece -- without needing to think about framing. And I was able to use the sketch to show her what I meant.  She quickly decided on the more-modern look; then we went on to talk about why this type of Dahlia held so much meaning for her and her family.  But as we spoke about other things, my eyes kept on returning to this sketch.  I couldn't understand why until it dawned on me.
Dahlia Sketch from the right side 

If you look that this photo of a side view of the sketch, you may be able to spot what it took me a while to notice.  The petals wrapping around the right side of the painting were wrong.  I had truncated them -- as if the flower ended long before it would in real life.  Thus, when viewed from that side, the image felt wrong.  I pointed that out to my client, and assured her that that wouldn't be the case on the finished piece, and it wasn't.

After the Labor Day weekend, I'm going to be working on this oil sketch again.  It will stay a "sketch" so I won't dilute the uniqueness of my client's piece. Because it is a sketch, I'll be able to sell it for about half of what I'd charge normally for a work -- which will be great for some lucky buyer. 

As I said earlier, the piece will cost substantially less than I would a standard work on my site.  If you are interested in buying this piece before I put it up on my gallery on, email me at


Yum ... Late Summer Veggies!

Yum .. Late Summer Veggies! - 10 x 8", Watercolor on WC Paper
I'm in a watercolor sketching group, and I have not been contributing much to it for much of the summer.  Today, I went to our local Amish farm stand, and found these beautiful peppers and tomatoes.  I particularly love the look of the heirloom ones.  They remind me of gigantic gooseberries.  I placed them on blue-green placemats I have because I knew the color contrast would make the veggies pop.  I used ultramarine blue for the shadows, and love the water-like impression it creates.

It is so neat living so close to where this food is grown.  And, it is neat to have gotten to know the family who run the farm and the stand.  Our sales girl today is a favorite of ours.  We've know her since she was 11, and she is smart as a whip.  She not only can easily do calculations in her head (a dying art since the advent of calculators), but she's feisty and a natural saleswoman.

Living in an academic family for so long, part of me aches to think she's already left school: she had to or be shunned for getting too much education. But, she seems happy, so recovery has helped me realize that she can be quite happy living a life with her family and in her community.

I haven't put an unmatted watercolor on paper up for auction in my DailyPaintworks gallery for a long time, so I'm going to do that with this small piece; and I'm going to make the starting bid a real bargain: $10.  If you are interested in it, check it out.

September 3, 2015

Oil Sketches for Dahlia Commission #1

Oil Sketch with Dahlias in Vase,  30 x 24", Oil on Canvas,  by Tracy Feldman
 As I mentioned yesterday, I created two oil sketches as part of the process of producing my last commission.

The works were based on images and  ideas I had discussed with my client.  When they were done to  a medium point, I sent her images of the works and asked her to choose which one she wanted me to use as the basis for her final piece.

She chose the piece I'll feature in an upcoming blog post.  There were two reasons that I abandoned working on either of these  oil sketches.  I wanted to focus on making sure I did the work to complete her final piece. Also, I discovered that the brand of white I used that I got on sale (it was Bob Ross's Warm White) didn't dry enough to push past my original alla-prima (wet on wet style of painting) for months.  At first I worried the problem was that I applied the paint too thickly (I used a painting knife to do the work).  But after a short while, I realized something else was to blame -- that's when I figured out it was the paint.

       When the paint finally dried enough that I could work on the pieces again, I was able to make needed adjustments to Oil Sketch with Dahlias in Vase in the down times when the final commission was drying. Although the design wasn't chosen by my client for the final piece, I love the energy I was able to bring to the piece because I used a painting knife and let myself use a faster, looser painting style than I normally use.  I also really like the formal style of the composition.  It reminds me of a compositional style that an early impressionist might have chosen.  And,  it may seem a small thing, but I love the way I was able to suggest the stems in the vase.

     Because it's a sketch, on September the 4th, I'm putting it up for sale in my gallery, and I will be making it available for substantially less than I would a standard work on my site.  Normally, I calculate the price to be $12.50 (w+h) (which means a 30 x 24" work would cost $675), but I'm going to make it available for half that -- $338.00 -- plus applicable tax and a nominal shipping fee.  If you are interested in buying this piece, check it out in my gallery on

    Check out tomorrow's blog to see the other oil sketch I produced when working on my most recent commission.  It's still a work in progress, and I'd love your input as I finally get down to finishing it!

September 2, 2015

Delivering the Commission -- Thank Goodness!

Tracy delivering Dahlia of My Heart -
a Commission to Cindi D
For Christmas last year, the Mathematics and Computer Science faculty at Franklin and Marshall College (in Lancaster, PA), gave their department coordinator a gift she had specifically requested: a painting by me!  I was touched and excited to be working with her, and foolishly assumed that I'd be able to get it to her in short order.  I just delivered it on Monday -- after clearly miscalculating how long the process would take.  My miscalculation was caused by a number of factors:  Cindi had to decide the topic of the work, and we had to decide on the image of the topic chosen that would make her heart sing.

       That was a more involved process because of me.  I had just seen an article featuring Ann Rea, an influential landscape artist who specializes in commissions and whose website was featured on as one of "9 Great Artist Websites".

I love the collaborative way Ann works with her clients.  She often travels with clients to the place they want painted -- to see exactly what they loved about the place.  She then creates two small works based on that research and has the client choose which of Ann's interpretations best match their own vision.  While I can't afford at this time to travel in the way Ann does, I did do research and did follow Ann's lead  -- producing two small pieces for Cindi to choose between before starting on the final piece.  And, through the process I sent pictures of the work in progress and asked her for her input.
Cindi's Bonus Painting

As I was wrapping up my work on the piece, Cindi was able to visit me at my studio, and I found more about the reason she loved the type of Dahlia I was painting.  It was named for a family member she loved and lost too soon.  She showed me a picture that included this person, and I was so touched that I created a small watercolor of the picture that I delivered at the same time as I delivered Dahlia of my Heart. I didn't know how she'd react, but fortunately she loved both pieces  -- as you can tell by her smile.

  Tomorrow I'll show you the two sample oils I created for Cindi before starting on the final version of her commission. One is completed, but one is still in progress.  Both will be available for sale.