Category Archives: Art How To Hints

Abstracted sailboat painting, “Coming About”

contemporary abstracted painting of sailboats by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, acrylic, 18″ x 24″ x 1.5″

“Coming About”
by Carolee Clark
18″ x 24″ x 1.5″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

Since I retired, I have not been showing and selling my work.  In fact, I have been painting very little.  Thus I am not interested in purchasing more canvas that I would need to store so I painted this commission over top of another painting.  The woman is a lovely lady whom I genuinely admire and she had no problem with me using an existing painting.  After all, do you know any of the old masters who didn’t paint over their work?  I am following in their footsteps.

Did I like the first painting?  Absolutely!  But I needed a canvas that size.

Do you want to see the under-painting?  I created a video of a few of the steps.  You can see it on my Instagram page by clicking here.


I forgot to show you this first step in my painting!

first step in my painting of Birch Banter

© Carolee Clark, “Birch Banter, Step 1”

In my excitement to show you the finished product, I forgot that I was going to post the first phase of the painting.  Starting with black gesso, I get the image onto the canvas.

Next I cover the rest of the white canvas with transparent paint, mixed and unmixed with other transparent colors. I don’t coat any particular color over the entire surface. At this stage it looks gaudy, bright and ugly. Much of this will be covered up but I do leave hints of it here and there.

Finally, I come in with opaque colors, covering up much of what was initially there.  And here is the final piece (which was posted a few days ago).

contemporary painting of birch trees by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, “Birch Banter,” acrylic, 36″ x 36″ x 1.5″


Cropping a painting, sometimes less is more, sometimes not

contemporary landscape painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, “Late Summer,” detail, acrylic on paper, 7″ x 7″

One of my favorite things to do is go through old paintings and get rid of them.  Clear out clutter to make room for new things.   It is cathartic and feels wonderful.

It also gives me new ideas.  I’ll look at a painting in a new way since I usually haven’t seen the piece in a while and I’ve released my attachment to it.

These old paintings don’t actually take up much room as they are on paper, but they do take my time and energy.  They take time when I am looking through them for a particular piece or when I am cleaning or moving things.

I started ripping up this painting (full sheet, acrylic on paper, circa 2005) and realized that I liked the half that I was holding.  Then I took a little 7″ x 7″ frame and separated this core of the painting.

Which do you like better, the cropped piece or the half sheet?  I do have an opinion, but I’d love to hear what you think!

contemporary landscape painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, “Late Summer,” acrylic on paper, 22″ x 16″

This final version is from Susan Brehm’s suggestion which might be the best crop yet!

© Carolee Clark, "Late Summer" 22" x 7"

© Carolee Clark, “Late Summer” 22″ x 7″


Cleaning out the files … to keep or to toss?

© 2002 Carolee Clark, “A Mask for All Occasions,” 27″ x 19″, pastel … Keep

I do this every once in a while, go through old paintings or drawings.  This time I went through old pastels and old watercolors.  I don’t go through the pastels very often because I hate touching them.  They get my hands all dirty and dusty with the pastel dust and I worry about damaging the ones that I care about.

One of my cats decided to jump into the flat file drawer that I was going through and ended up with a blue paw pad and a green paw pad.  She got whisked to the bathroom where I tried to wash her paws and she mewed pitifully.  Then I threw her outside hoping the rain puddles would wash the rest.

Each time I go through them I throw out more, cutting deeper into any “stash” that seems precious.   I haven’t done any pastels since early 2003 … almost 10 years!  I have thrown out so many over the years that I bet I don’t even have 12 left.  The one above (“A Mask for All Occasions”) was on the toss out pile but I rescued it and it still lives in my flat file.

Don’t get me wrong.  Pastels can be absolutely beautiful but it is definitely not my medium of choice.

The watercolors are easier to go through.  No dust, no careful handling just a quick decision of whether to keep them or toss them.  My watercolor paintings are dwindling in number too.  I’m pretty ruthless about keeping things that I don’t like or am tired of looking at (the painting below was tossed).  This time I even chucked some paintings that were accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon.

This process can feel absolutely wonderful!

© 2002 Carolee Clark, “Playing Cards,” 22″ x 30″, watercolor … Toss


Daily Painting, “Quarry Hills,” contemporary landscape painting

contemporary landscape painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Quarry Hills," 10" x 10", acrylic

“Quarry Hills”   sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

Since I had a minute to take an extra photograph, I thought I’d show you my sketch for this painting.  I always sketch to determine how I’m going to compose the painting and get a feel for my subject.   It is done in black ink so I can get dark, medium and light values (the pen I used for this was a Faber-Castell Pitt pen which uses India Ink).  I don’t spend a lot of time on the sketch, this one took only a few minutes.

sketch for "Quarry Hills" by Carolee Clark

Sketch for "Quarry Hills" by Carolee Clark, ink

This is a submission for the Virtual Paint Out blog. Their area of concentration this month is New Zealand.

Painting “Riverside Drive” contemporary landscape

contemporary landscape painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Riverside Drive," 18" x 24", acrylic

“Riverside Drive”
by Carolee Clark
18″ x 24″


Boy did I mess up this one. I feel sick about it ….

I was busy working on this painting and have been for some time.  It was started about 5 years ago on site on Riverside Drive in Albany, OR.  I continued working on it yesterday and ran out of “Sap Green” so grabbed my large new tube.  I squeezed a good size dollop on my palete and tried mixing it.  It was awful!  It was sticky and didn’t mix well.  I knew that I wouldn’t buy that brand again … I didn’t even like the color as much as my old jar, plus it smelled really funny.   I pushed through … I can make it work!

This morning when I went back to continue working on the painting, I noticed that that pile of paint was still wet!!  Acrylic doesn’t stay wet over night. 

Oh no … it was oil paint!! 

You can paint oil over acrylic but not the other way around.  You can’t mix them in the same layer.  Acrylic paint is plastic based and dries right away.  Oil can take a very, very, very long time to dry properly.  With the different drying times, the paint will crack.

This means that even if I wasn’t finished with the painting (and I wasn’t) … I am now.  I will throw this ruined canvas out.  At least I got to share this story with you!

Daily Painting, “Pear Essentials,” abstracted pear painting

abstracted pear painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Pear Essentials," 10" x 10", acrylic

“Pear Essentials”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

A friend emailed me the other day saying that I “might have been a master quilter in a previous life.”  I agreed with her and began to wonder where my interest in patterns began.  What we are doing with our art today will have an impact on what we will be doing in the future.  We take what we like and learn and apply it to what we do tomorrow.

With this in mind I thought of my collages where I took my old watercolor paintings, cut them up into tiny pieces and puzzled them together into a new image.  I managed to get all sorts of wonderful surprises and patterns. 

I stopped doing these collages because they were extremely time consuming and hard on the neck because I had to work flat.  Below is one of those collages.  Here is another collage “Good Humor” that I posted a couple of years ago.

collage by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Jennifer," 4" x 4", collage

by Carolee Clark
4″ x 4″
collage on watercolor paper (2005)

“Pear Essentials” was done for the RP challenge.

Daily Painting, “Waverly Street,” contemporary urban scene

contemporary urban scene painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Waverly Street," 10" x 10", acrylic

“Waverly Street”   sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I like to draw … and I’ll draw anything just to hone my skill.  I draw from the model as often as I can and people often ask me what I do with my drawings.  Some of them I will turn into paintings but many I throw away (even before I get back into the house).  I am training my eye and my hand.  It is one less hurdle to overcome while creating a painting if I know that I will be able to make my subject look the way I want:  distorted, exaggerated or realistic.  Below is the sketch for the painting “Waverly Street.”

© Carolee Clark, "Sketch for Waverly Street" 3.25" x 3.25"


Daily Painting, “Poppies on Clare Street,” contemporary urban scene

contemporary painting of poppies by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Poppies on Clare Street," 10" x 10", acrylic

“Poppies on Clare Street”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

Usually, I don’t ramble on about myself because I’m not that interesting, but recently I was asked how I developed my style so …

I don’t think that one develops a style consciously. It happens naturally with work. By painting (or sculpting, cooking, writing or gardening … enter creative pursuit here) it will emerge. The more you listen to your inner voice, and the surge of joy you get whenever you create something that you love, the more it will emerge. If I find myself attracted to another artist’s work it is often because they have successfully captured something that I too am working toward. We can learn from others by figuring out what we like (or don’t like about their work).

However, if an artist listens too closely to colleagues, critiques, teachers or patrons this voice might be muted. The more that we listen to ourselves, the more the individual comes out on the canvas.

One cannot help but to have “style” emerge which is as individual as they are. Just as we all have distinct handwriting and personality traits; we have ways of handling paint, imagery and ideas, and having it “sing” for us. Our journey (life and painting experiences) contributes to our style.

This also means that style will change over time. There will be threads that will continue throughout, but our experience changes and this will slowly creep into our work.

I think the big issues are to pay attention and do what makes you excited about your work. When listening to others, also listen to what your heart says about their advice. Most importantly, is to keep working.

Daily Painting, “Abe after Picasso,” abstract portrait

abstracted portrait by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Abe after Picasso," 10" x 10", acrylic

“Abe after Picasso”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I thought I’d go through my process for this painting since it wouldn’t be evident how I got from the photo of Abraham Lincoln to this strange, but hopefully interesting portrait.  

I started with the photo from the DPW challenge.  I often start with a more realistic sketch just to familiarize myself with the subject.   These are all very quick drawings.   Then I push myself to make it more interesting (to myself mind you!).  I keep playing until I have something that I am excited about painting.  Sometimes this takes one sketch sometimes it takes multiples.  Since I’m not interested in doing realistic portraiture, I really wanted to push myself and have some fun.  If we artists can’t push ourselves to be creative and fun, who can?

The images below will allow you to see the sequence of sketches from photo to the last sketch.  You will also notice that my final sketch is just an idea as to the final painting.  Especially with this type of abstraction I wasn’t worried about transferring my final sketch exactly.  I just wanted to get the feeling of it down.  I also always allow myself leeway to change the painting as I go along. 

Once I get the final sketch and take that to the canvas I rarely look at any of the previous sketches letting the painting dictate. 

I think that you can see that I really had fun painting beyond the lines 🙂


first sketch of abe by Carolee Clark

First Sketch

second sketch of abe by Carolee Clark

Second sketch

third sketch of abe by Carolee Clark

Third Sketch

Painting – “Volkswagen Enthusiast” – contemporary urban scene with vehicle

contemporary urban scene painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, “Volkswagen Enthusiast,” 20″ x 20″, acrylic

“Volkswagen Enthusiast”  sold_dot  sold
by Carolee Clark
20″ x 20″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I have worked on a couple of larger pieces lately, this is one of them.  The other is “Catherine’s Cottage.”  I love doing both the small pieces and the larger ones.  I have used some of my daily paintings as the jumping point for these larger ones.

As the new year approaches, I take time to reassess my goals (to be done later ;)), and go through a few drawers.  I went through about 10 years of figure drawings today and pitched about half of them (most of the earlier years have already been tossed).  It is really interesting to look back before we look forward isn’t it?  How has our art transformed into what it is now?  It is really fascinating to see one of the first drawings that pushed us into a certain path, a method, a different way of seeing ….

Daily Painting – “Follow That Car!” – contemporary abstracted urban scene

contemporary abstracted urban scene painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark, "Follow That Car!", 10" x 10", acrylic

“Follow That Car!”   sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I had an email yesterday, asking me how I developed my skills so I thought that I might talk a little about that in today’s post, trying not to become too verbose.  Perhaps I’ll spread some ideas over several posts.

There are as many ways to become “The Artist” that you want to be, as there are artists!  So don’t despair if you didn’t go to art school, didn’t start at the age of three, or missed the nationally known artist who taught a workshop in your area.

Although I was introduced to art at a very early age and thoroughly enjoyed my crayons, I did not get a fine arts degree.  My interest was always there however, so in my twenties, I signed up for a drawing course through the continuing education section of the local community college.   I was on my way!

Take a class from an artist whose work you admire.  The key here however is practice between classes!  If you go from week to week without picking up a pencil or a brush and expect to see great improvement it likely won’t happen.

Couple create artistic display from small paintings

artwork in place

© Peter & Lori LaBerge

One couple from North Carolina, Peter & Lori LaBerge, have purchased nine of my paintings and created an incredible display just above their fireplace.  The backing they have used give them a sophisticated cohesiveness which I really like.   It is so wonderful to see how they have created and displayed the work in their beautiful home.

artwork in place

© Peter & Lori LaBerge


Listen to the Inner Voice

My friend and I were painting today.  I was boring her with my tirade  that we need to follow our own heart, not listen to the critiques of others if they don’t resonate with our own voice, forget about what sold yesterday, last week or last year, but paint what we really want to paint right now.

I do change direction when the muse nudges me, but each step prior to the ones that I am taking now have validity in my direction.  I can only paint who I am, if I am honest and following my inner urgings.  If I want to master my art, I must follow this … not my critiques or my patrons.  To truly find my own voice, I must only follow the little voice inside that says “I like that” when I paint something that is truly me.  This is the only authentic thing we can do, not follow the voices of our teachers, our family, or our patrons, but to become a master, to paint something that only we alone can paint, we need to listen to this inner voice … if we can hear it.

Daily Painting – Going Green – contemporary tree in Oregon

contemporary tree painting

© Carolee Clark

“Going Green”   sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

Yesterday I was painting with a friend who is teaching a private painting lesson to a group of new painters.  She was working on a painting where she was using all grayed down colors for her next lesson plan.  We talked of getting into color ruts so I announced that I would do a predominately red painting (see yesterday’s painting).  Today I decided to do a green one.

Generally I attempt to keep a painting either warm or cool, so this is going just a little farther.  Maybe tomorrow should be purple … or blue …

Daily Painting – “Orange Ave” – abstract, landscape

abstracted landscape painting by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark

“Orange Ave”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I had a dream a few nights ago that my paintings were going to change.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to change and I still am not sure.  Even though I have no idea in what way my paintings will change or how rapidly, I undertook this year long “painting a day” challenge to see where it would take my painting. 

Those who have known me over the years know that I have painted with watercolor, pastel, used collage and finally acrylic.  I have explored the figure, portraiture, landscape, still life, non objective abstract and subject material abstracted.  Now an artist can use multiple types of subject matter and different media and still have his or her style be recognizable. 

A few years ago I had a local show at the hospital.  A woman came up to me and told me that she knew that it was my work without even looking at the name.  This was extraordinary to me as I had changed from watercolor to acrylic, and from landscape to non objective abstract!!  This happened overnight, yet she still knew it was mine.  Wow.

An artist cannot help that their work will change over the years.  Any retrospective of an artist will have a thread of recognizable style throughout their lives.

Change is inevitable and it’s always interesting (at least in painting).

Daily Painting – Coloring Book Drawing

painting of female nude by Carolee Clark

© Carolee Clark

“Coloring Book Drawing”  sold_dot  sold
by Carolee Clark
11″ x 7″ watercolor & caran d’ache, unframed

I have never been able to stick with a job unless I was having fun with it.  The same principle applies with my painting.  I am serious about my art work, but I still want to have fun.  Sometimes I just want to scribble, scratch, blob, splatter and color outside the lines, run crayons right through the figure …. so I do.  No rules here.

I worked from a sketch I did earlier in the week (on my lesser known blog).

Daily Painting – Catching Up

painting of two female friends

© Carolee Clark

“Catching Up”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10″ x 10″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

I thought you might be interested in the sketch for this painting (below).  It was about my third sketch before I finally got the figures in the composition that I liked.  I didn’t faithfully reproduce the image onto the canvas, deciding to simplify and change some things as the painting progressed.

sketch for painting "Friendship #2"

© Carolee Clark

Daily Painting – I Need a Break

abstract painting of female figure

© Carolee Clark

“I Need a Break”   sold 
by Carolee Clark
9″ x 12″
acrylic on wrapped canvas

One of the reasons that I don’t like painting in a group is that my paintings go through a really ugly stage.  I certainly don’t want someone to come along at that point in the painting and make a snap judgement about the quality, the process or the painting.  Sometimes at that “ugly stage” I begin to doubt myself that the painting will work at all, and don’t want the confirmation that it is indeed, ugly.  However, it is some of those paintings that I end up liking the most.  Like this one.   Keep plugging along at it!


Daily Painting – Target

ink painting of female figure

© Carolee Clark

“Target”    sold
by Carolee Clark
10.5″ x 7″ ink on watercolor paper, unframed

Many of you know that I gave myself the challenge to paint a painting a day for a year.  I have been doing this for about nine months now.  I knew that it wouldn’t be feasible to do one every single day so I thought that 5 or 6 a week would probably do.  Yesterday I realized that I had painted one for 26 days straight and I was tired!

Hence my little ink paintings.  They are my breath, a tiny respite.  I find them totally calming  and thoroughly enjoyable.  They take me less time than my acrylic paintings so I have a little more time to post, answer email, enter shows and work on larger pieces!

You might see a few of these in the next couple of days so that yes, I can catch my breath.