Category Archives: travel

Art Show Get-a-Way

SoBe Kind of Day by Leah Wiedemer

SoBe Kind of Day by Leah Wiedemer

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to do some roaming, so when my painting “SoBe Kind of Day” was accepted into the Women Painters of the South East annual exhibition I jumped at the chance to travel to Tennessee for the opening. The exhibition was held at the Imagine Gallery on the second floor of  ‘The Factory’ in Franklin, TN.  Franklin is a charming little town just south of Nashville. It was a delight to stroll Main street, window shopping and sampling the offerings of a few of the many fine restaurants in town. Outside of town there were rolling hills dotted with horse farms and historic plantations. The Factory Since Nashville was close we decided to take a little day trip. The Frist museum was holding a wonderful exhibition of old Dutch masters. What a treat! After a thoroughly enjoyable morning of seeing my first live and in person Rembrandts we had some lunch and then hit the strip lined with eateries, drinkeries and cowboy boot shops.



The next day Lori Putnam ( our juror for the show and plein air painter extraordinaire)  gave an informative talk and painting demonstration. It’s always great to see an accomplished artist do a painting right before your eyes.

Lori Putnam's painting demo

Lori Putnam’s painting demo

That evening was the show opening and awards ceremony. The show was hung beautifully and I was proud to have one of my pieces included among so many stunning paintings.  If you go to the WPSE website you can see pictures of all of the winning  works. Congratulations to all who took awards! They were well deserved.  Hopefully, I will see you again next year.



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Six Steps to a Finished Oil Painting

There seem to be few hard and fast rules in oil painting which can be both liberating and paralyzing all at the same time. The one rule I do try to follow is the lean to fat rule. I generally use straight paint until the final layer where I may add a little oil for glazing or small touches. When the painting is dry to the touch in about a week or so I will go over the whole thing with oil. This may or may not be the prescribed method, so if you would like to school me on what is proper please leave a comment. The following is the process I used for this particular painting.

Step One:  First I sketched out my composition with vine charcoal, taking pains to get the lines and angles positioned just right.

Step Two: I very loosely blocked in the buildings and water. Then I began painting the buildings on the right, working in an abstract texture with a pallet knife. This was a lot of fun for me to create texture and design using a knife.

venice 1

 Step Three:  Here I began working on the left hand side buildings going from back to front. I wanted to keep the back buildings a bit hazy and less defined to indicate distance.

venice 2

Step Four: Now I’m ready to begin a slightly more finished look on the front buildings. I would still like to keep it fairly loose so I go back to using my pallet knife to add texture but no real detail.

venice 3


Step Five: It is time to put in the boats on the left and do more work on the gondola on the right.  I also decided to add another figure at the railing. She wasn’t in my photo reference, but she was in my head. Also, I’ve made a few adjustments here and there on some of the window lines that looked a little wonky to me.

venice 5



Step Six: I went back over the water, adding highlights and reflections. I added some flowers to a window box on the right, and went over the sky again.  Then it was just some general tweaking  and I was ready to sign.

venice final web


That’s how I tackled this  48″ x36″ work. I used a pallet knife for about 70% of the painting. Comment to let me know what painting rules you follow and which ones you like to ignore.


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Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

This year has brought a lot of newness to our lives.  My family and I find ourselves in a new town and of course a new home. We weren’t necessarily looking for change, but now that it has come we are very happy.  This is my new studio. Don’t you love that big window?

new studio

new studio

I have new plans to begin plein aire painting.  Our new location is near the ocean so I expect my work to reflect that fact. heron

This guy posed for me today. I’ll be back to paint this area on a day the sun makes an appearance. There is much exploration and local roaming to be done. As we continue to unpack boxes and become better organized the roaming will commence. I believe it’s true what they say. Change is good.

May all of your changes will be good changes.


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Caution: Construction Site

In the old Star Trek episodes Doctor McCoy often said , “I’m a doctor Jim, not a ___________!”. Insert any random job. So, like old Doc McCoy, I’m saying “I’m an artist, not a construction worker!” Or am I? Said with my eyes rolled up to the top of my head and my index finger tapping my chin in an effort to appear contemplative.
So don your hard hats and safety glasses and we’ll get busy.

I’m often asked if I always use photographic references for my paintings or if I sometimes just paint out of my imagination. The answer is yes to both. I’ll use this painting as an example of how I usually ‘construct’ a painting.
On my recent trip to Tuscany I took my usual hundreds of photographs of the countryside and ancient streets in Tuscan villages. In one town we walked past two obviously lovingly restored antique Fiat 500s. So of course I snapped a picture. Our rental car was a new Fiat 500. I took a picture of that too. Back home in my studio I got the idea that combing the old and new Fiat 500s in a painting would make a nice composition. I then searched through my village pictures to find a street with the right amount of curve, angle and ancient charm to match my vision.
With my photo references chosen I was ready to begin construction. First I sketched in the street and buildings with thinned paint. Once I was satisfied with the perspectives I worked on placing the cars on the street to make them look believable and not pasted on as an after thought. This is the part of my construction project that took the most time. The lines and angles had to be rendered as accurately as I could manage, but also the scale had to be right

Many layers of paint later I decided to bring some people into my composition. The people were necessary to add life and keep my viewers eyes roving through the painting without getting stuck, bored or stagnant. This is where painting out of my imagination came in. Sometimes I have great figure references built right into my photo. This time that wasn’t the case, so I imagined people on the street noticing the cars as I had done a couple of months before. Once again I had to pay extra attention to placement and scale so as not to have my figures appear abnormal, but rather as though they belong in the scene.
A few more layers of paint on the sky and figures and I’m ready to include some foreground details. In house construction this might be paint, carpet and maybe decorating. Here I have added a suggestion of stone detail on the street foreground making it fade back in the distance.
You can take your hard hat and safety gasses off now and do a walk through. If I don’t see any immediate problems I sign my name and take a photograph. Sometimes I don’t notice a glaring defect until I look at the photo. Time to put the ‘For Sale’ sign out in the yard because I think this painting is truly finished. What do you think?

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Can’t Draw a Straight Line?

If I had a nickle for every time I’ve heard that! – I’d be…Well never mind.  Maybe you have said that yourself.  Maybe you have said it often enough that you have come to believe it.  I’d like to change your mind, and hear you say things like… “I can not only draw straight lines, but curves as well.  And I can arrange them in such a way as to look like something – something I intended!”

Just for a moment forget what you think you know about your artistic abilities.  Open up to the possibility of learning to draw and enjoying the process.  It’s not a party trick. I believe that with the proper training anyone can learn a few time tested drawing techniques used by artists  all over the world.  I’m not saying that you will be the next Michelangelo.  I am saying that it will add a new creative dimension to your life.  You will have another way of expressing yourself that is fun and fulfilling.

Imagine that you are on vacation somewhere, anywhere – your favorite place or a place you are visiting for the first time.  You’ve snapped about a thousand pictures so far and they are great.  Now you have a couple of hours where you could nap, or read a book OR take out your pocket sketch book and record a couple of impressions of where you are right now by drawing.  Sketching  has a way of  making a lasting impression on our memories that taking a photo can’t touch.  Sketching makes an image personal, more intimate.

If you would like to learn how to draw a straight line and curved lines I have a great opportunity for you!  I’ll be teaching 2 workshops in Barga, Italy (Tuscany).  The first one is called “Seeing with the Artists Eye”, Saturday, September 18, 2010 from 10am – 6pm (with a break for lunch).  The second is “Beginning Pastel Painting” Sunday, September 26, from 10am – 6pm.   That is where we take your new drawing skills and learn to add color.

I’m teaming up with my good friend and author/writing coach Diana Scimone, who will be teaching “How to Write a Book” 101 and 102.  Her workshops will be held Sunday, September 19 and Saturday, September 25.  So it is possible to attend all 4 workshops!

To register to boost your creative expression, click Here.  Register by June 15 and save 50%!!!

See you in Tuscany!

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Join us in beautiful Tuscany!

Well, I promised you more details about our upcoming Art/Writing Retreat in Barga, Italy and here they are! So buckle up, because you are going to love this.

If you would rather skip the pesky details and register now, click SIGN ME UP!

Let’s say you’ve always wanted to write a book…

…but didn’t know where to begin. Or you wanted to paint but are convinced you can’t draw a straight line.

This retreat is for you! Writing Coach Diana Scimone and yours truly will teach all the classes–and we promise you’ll be inspired and encouraged to paint the masterpiece and write the best-seller that you’ve always dreamed of.

Diana is not only my good friend but also the author of the charming series “Adventures With PawPaw” (which I was privileged to illustrate) and the soon-to-be-released “Born to Fly”wordless book. So how does one write a wordless book you ask? Diana wrote a novel by the same name and I “translated” it into an illustration only graphic novel.
Diana will teach the writing classes. As a writer’s coach, she has helped countless people all over the world write the books that are inside them. She offers numerous workshops throughout the year, personalized writer’s coaching, and her blog to help people write the book they’ve always dreamed of writing. And she’d love to help you write your book, too.
As for me… like most artists I have been drawing and painting most of my life. I have experience in working in watercolor, oil, soft pastels, pen and ink and of course the lowly pencil. Over the course of my career I have won awards at various art shows, exhibited in galleries, painted murals, illustrated children’s books, and taught art to both children and adults. And I would love to pass along some proven drawing and painting techniques to you.

Classes are for beginning as well as experienced artists and writers. Diana and I will teach 2 classes each (in English) over two weekends in September. You can attend 1, 2, 3, or all 4 classes. The more classes you take, the greater your discount (and you also get a nice discount if you register by June 15).

All classes will be at beautiful Casa Cordati in the delightful town of Barga. Here’s what you’ll learn in this charming setting (remember, you can take any or all of these classes):

Heard enough yet?  SIGN ME UP!

Saturday, September 18
Drawing with the Artist’s Eye: Learn proven drawing techniques used by artists all over the world.
Taught by artist Leah Wiedemer
10 am – 6 pm

Sunday, September 19
“How to Write a Book 101”
Learn 7 practical steps to help you write the book you’ve always dreamed of writing.
Taught by Diana Scimone
10am – 6pm

Saturday, September 25
How to Write a Book 102: Explore 23 valuable tools to make your fiction
and non-fiction sing
Taught by writer’s coach Diana Scimone
10 am – 6 pm

Sunday, September 26
Beginning Soft Pastel: Learn color basics and how to work with this wonderfully, portable and forgiving medium.
Taught by artist Leah Wiedemer
10am -6pm

Want more info?

Contact Diana or me. Registration is limited in order to keep classes small, so don’t put it off. Use the convenient form below to register via credit card or PayPal today.

That landscape is waiting to be painted and that book doesn’t want to wait another year!

To register just click  HERE.

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Scattered Thoughts – From Here to Italy

I’m home from the ‘best ever trip to Italy’, and I’m having some trouble organizing my thoughts. “How was your trip?” everyone asks. “W-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l !!!!”, I respond over and over. I zig zagged from the top of the boot to the heel and back again,stopping to visit friends (meeting some for the first time) along the way.
I learned some things while I was in Italy. First, I can be more generous and show greater hospitality. Also, wine with lunch does not necessarily constitute alcoholism. Things don’t always go as planned, so it is important to be flexible. How many times did I hear people say with a shrug of their shoulders “Well, this IS Italy” ? They have come to expect the unexpected, and roll with the punches. I learned that it is worth the time and energy it takes to properly prepare fresh ingredients because every meal can and should be a celebration. Believe me, home cooked Italian food is something worth celebrating. I discovered that there are more ways to flush a toilet than I ever dreamed possible. Look up, look down, look all around, there is a flusher somewhere! The one that stumped me was cleverly hidden behind a curtain. And finally, my language skills need some work. Well, actually they need a lot of work.

The first family I visited lives in the south on the Adriatic. This was the first time we were meeting in person. Until now, we had only seen and spoken to each other over the internet. They picked me up at the airport all smiles and kisses, depositing me in the backseat while they made a valiant effort to speak slow enough for me in my jet lagged stupor to understand every third word or so. Before I knew it we were rocketing along the highway, weaving in and out of traffic without a care in the world. I happen to have a strange reaction to speed. It makes me giddy. I spent the next 30 minutes trying not to giggle like a little girl so they wouldn’t think they had an unstable, hysterical American on their hands. Of course we landed – I mean, arrived safely in time for lunch, which seemed more like dinner. I won’t dwell on the food. Let me just assure you that everything you have heard is correct. It is spectacular, fresh and abundant. In this home no meal was ever served without a carafe of homemade wine, and usually ended with a homemade liquor. I could get used to this. The youngest son (about 14 years old), home for lunch from school helps himself to a glass of wine. Nobody slaps his hand or even raises an eyebrow. I wonder… “Is he returning to school after lunch? How do Italian students stay awake during Algebra class after eating a big meal and drinking wine?” My algebra days being behind me, I’m planning on a riposa (nap) followed by the traditional passeggiata before dinner.
My next stop was a fairy tale village called Barga in northern Tuscany. It’s a medieval town complete with four story palazzi hugging narrow curving lanes. From my third floor window I could see much of the town and surroundings mountains. It was magic. Enchanted. I felt light headed, as I climbed the winding stairway to the top floor where the walls are frescoed and the rooftop views stunning. I stayed at Casa Cordati ,the home of a deceased painter of some renown and considerable skill. There is a museum featuring his works, lovingly curated by his grandson. I wandered through the museum rooms marveling at the works and gaining inspiration. It was worth the hours of unpredictable train travel, with late arrivals and missed connections to get here. I’m hoping that the difficulty of finding Barga keeps it hidden from hoards of tourists until I can return to spend more time.
I’ll continue this in my next post when I visit more friends in Tuscany and travel up to the Swiss border.

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