Almost since I began painting, I had the feeling that I wanted my work to represent something that was not only my expression of myself, but something to which the view could relate. I wanted my paintings to arouse feelings whether they be happy, sad or nostalgic.

I wanted my paintings to have a message. I still do, but certainly not all of my paintings could be said to be metaphoric unless you consider a simple flower to be representative of something other than natural beauty or new beginnings. After all, Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers were just that.


Black Iris (1926) by Georgia O’Keeffe


The word that comes to mind for me is that I was attracted to and had the desire to paint metaphors. The dictionary defines metaphor as something that is being used to represent something else, perhaps an emblem or a symbol. Some obvious, some not.

“The function of a metaphor in art, whether in painting, sculpture, or writing, is generally to evoke a certain feeling or thought in one who reads or witnesses the work. Metaphors use symbolism and comparisons to strengthen a point, and they may also act to represent certain ideas or thoughts. Visual metaphors may be obvious or abstract, depending on the artist’s emotions, ideas or experiences.”

Ann Hart Marquis- a chair that acts as a metaphor

Green Chair, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 x1.5 inches.

The exact meaning, if there is one, behind a visual metaphor in art seems to depend on the frame of mind and feelings of the artist who created the work. It also depends of the frame of mind of the viewer. Otherwise, the meaning is lost to all but the artist. In other words, a chair is just a chair.

Oil Pastels

Almost two years ago I took an online Abstract Landscape class taught by Pauline Agnew. We used acrylic paint, and soft oil pastels and baby wipes.

During this class I painted exclusively on watercolor paper. I choose not to use canvas because when used with acrylic paint, they cannot be preserved with acrylic varnish. They need to be framed. We spent some time on Monet-like water lily paintings. I didn’t like mine particularly at the time.

Since I have now finished all of my paintings for an upcoming exhibit, I had some time to play with the oil pastels again. I did another water lily scene which I like much better than the former paintings.

Painting of water lily pads done with oil pastels

Water Lily Pads, acrylic and oil pastel on paper, 12 x 12 inches.

Oil pastels are a very different from soft pastels. They are greasier and from what I have read, do not work well for a realistic painting. They are good for expressive and impressionistic work because they glide so effortlessly and are very vibrant and creamy.

They can build up some subtle or dramatic texture as well, which you may not see with soft pastel. I have read that they lend themselves wonderfully to all sorts of techniques from scraping and stippling to color gradations and overlays.

As for mistakes, once you put them on paper or canvas, they are difficult to remove. I used baby wipes to spread around the color or to try to reduce it, but they cannot be removed completely.

I used Mungyo Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels because they were inexpensive and I didn’t know if I would like them. That was a good move on my part, because I don’t particularly like to work on paper and I don’t want to frame my paintings. They were an interesting experiment and I have friends who love them.

Evening Painting

If you read my post two weeks ago, you saw how I “fixed” a painting with which I was not satisfied. In all of the years that I have been painting there is at least one painting that I just can’t get right no matter how hard I try and how many coats of paints and glazes I have used to try to get the painting just like I want it—something that I think is a good painting.

I have one of those paintings now. In my post about it, I said, “So now with this painting finished and the others resolved, I seem to be almost ready for the exhibit. I think it is finished, but I have to live with it a while.”

Well, I lived with it for about three days. One of my first thoughts was the name of this painting is Evening and the sky did not reflect an evening sky. It was not an evening painting. Next the forefront of the painting seemed to light.

And then what about that building. It was a dull color. The real building which was my studio was red. It needed to be red.

Ann Hart Marquis--Evening at Chalk Hill-evening painting showing a dark sky and water reflected by light

Evening at Chalk Hill, acrylic on birch panel, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches.

I then painted the sky a violet blue, the studio red (a mixture of cad red light and alizarin crimson) and the foreground darker colors. I also added more reeds in the front, left and made them darker. I didn’t touch the mountains or trees. I did take out the orange-red that was below the trees.

It is now looking good. I think.

Better than two weeks ago. What do you think?

Ann Hart Marquis-Evening at Chalk Hill- finishing a painting

Evening at Chalk Hill, acrylic and ink on birch wood panel, 18 x 24 1.5 inches.

Painting Over a Painting

As some of you know, after living with a painting for a while, I may think it needs a little touch up or perhaps I see what I would call an error that just doesn’t work. I can always remove an element from a painting, paint over a section or change the look. That is the beauty of painting with acrylic.

This week I took a painting on birch panel that had been bothering me for some time. I felt that it was not very  imaginative. I didn’t need to spend much time with it before I decided it had to go and I wanted to keep the expensive panel.

As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes when I look at a painting that I did months ago, I know my style has changed and I find the old work lacking in some way.

First let me show you my new painting. I am very pleased with the way it turned out. And I don’t think that I will be touching it in the future.

Ann Hart Marquis-painting over a painting

Ridge Oaks, acrylic on birch panel, 20 x 20 x 1.5 inches.

I took the old painting, turned it sideways because I liked some of the colors on the side of the painting, drew a horizon line, painted the sky and just started painting over the bottom half.

I layered the bottom half with mixtures of blue, turquoise and green and dabbed on some contrasting color here and there. It was all rather done by intuition.

It was fun and rather exciting to do because I had an exact image in my mind of what I wanted the finished painting to look like. And it was easy, although in some spots I had to do several new layers to cover a dark color.

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Oak-painting a river

Chalk Hill Oak, acrylic on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart marquis

Here is the original painting which I thought was rather mundane. I am happy that it is still part of my new painting. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Finishing a Painting

Last summer, I spent three weeks in June at an artist residency in Sonoma County, California. During that time I painted seven paintings that I considered finished when I left and one that I knew was incomplete. My task, finishing a painting.

Because I got off on another painting tangent, I have not paid much attention to that series. I have been recently been asked to hang 7-10 paintings for the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation Annual art exhibit in March. My summer series seemed perfect for that exhibit, so I took a long look at them again, and decided to complete the one that I had not finished.

Here is how it looked when I left California. It needed a lot of help.

Evening #1

Evening #1

Here is how it looked after working on it for several hours.

Evening #2

Evening #2

And here is how it looks for now. I think it is finished, but I have to live with it a while.

Ann Hart Marquis-Evening at Chalk Hill- finishing a painting

Evening at Chalk Hill, acrylic and ink on birch wood panel, 18 x 24 1.5 inches.

After working on this, I started to look at the remaining paintings. I really liked three of them, but the others I thought needed a touch-up here and there. I painted these paintings almost eight months ago. During that time my painting style has evolved. I have some paintings or have sold some paintings that I still would not change a brush stroke. It seems to be an arbitrary arrangement for me.

So now with this painting finished and the others resolved, I seem to be almost ready for the exhibit. But it is almost three months from now. Where will I be then?

The Fauvists

For the last four weeks I have been painting with gray as a major component in my paintings. As one could imagine, I have grown tired of grayed down colors for now. So this week I decided to create a painting that has little or no gray.


Optimistically Tenacious, acrylic and ink on canvas, 14 x 1.5 inches.

It felt wonderful to get back to bright pure color. After I finished this painting I was reminded of my first painting teacher Carol Watanabe who considered herself a Fauve artist. Her class took place in Soréze, France and then later in Collioure, France. Here is an example of her work.

Carol Watanabe

Carol Watanabe

The Fauvists

The Fauvists were French painters whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as a means of communicating the artist’s emotional state.

Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, high-keyed, vibrant colors sometimes directly from the tube.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse

“Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) and André Derain (French, 1880–1954) first  introduced unnaturalistic color and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings in the summer of 1905, working together in the small fishing port of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast. When their paintings were exhibited later that year at the Salon d’ Automne in Paris they inspired an art critic to call them fauves (“wild beasts”).”

Although I never considered myself a fauvist, that use of bold color has stayed with me and frequently I have to force myself not to use colors that are really too intense. Graying down a color took me while to appreciate.

Palette Paper

Sometimes as a painter my imagination takes me to places that can be mysterious and adventurous. This was such a week. I didn’t have time to start a new painting, so I poked around in old things that I had kept, hoping to stimulate my imagination for next week.

Last week I posted a segment on Masterson’s Sta-Wet Palette. Part of the Sta-Wet Palette set is a strong, coated piece of palette paper that is prepared with hot water and then placed over a sponge the same size as the paper.

I change my paper approximately every 1-2 months depending on how messy it has become. When it is too paint-covered to use, I turn it over and use the other side until I actually have to replace the paper.

The last three times that I have changed the paper, I saved them because I liked some of the random colors and designs that were created during my painting practice. Here is how two palette papers looked originally.

Ann Hart Marquis-how to cut palette paper

Uncut palette paper

I found them this week while going through miscellaneous stuff that needed to be organized. In taking some time to look at them I decided to crop areas of the palette paper that I thought would make an interesting abstract painting.

These are the finished pieces that I cut to make an actual abstract “painting.”

Ann Hart Marquis- palette paper

Dancing in Pink, acrylic on paper, 7 x 5 inches.

cut palette paper

Path Home, acrylic on paper, 6 x 7 inches.

Can you tell where I made the cuts?

Palette Cleaning

If a painter uses a palette to hold paint, eventually it probably needs to be cleaned. Since I am an acrylic painter for the most part, I like to use a palette that stays damp so I can keep my paints damp from day to day.

My preference is Masterson’s Sta-Wet Palettes. Their palettes come in various sizes from 8 x 7 inches to 16 x 12 inches. My favorite is Masterson’s Painters Pal which is 12 x 13 inches and I like it because it has the best seal.

Since I like to mix colors on my palette, I do my palette cleaning approximately every month or two depending on how many colors I have used. This week it got cleaned, but I still had a little paint left so I found a sturdy white painter’s cardboard and created a small abstract.

Molding Paste

I protected the cardboard first by putting on a heavy layer of molding paste. I haven’t used molding paste in my paintings for some time. This medium is not particularly absorbent, so the paint can slide around when held at various angles.

After the molding paste dried, I thought of a very loose composition, perhaps representing an abstract landscape, put a little water on the molding paste and then applied the paints. Here is the result. The dark color is a chromatic black made up of odds and ends on my palette.

An Hart Marquis-Oh Happy Day-palette cleaning

Oh Happy Day, acrylic on cardboard, 8 x 6 inches.

Although at this time I don’t use molding paste, I have used it extensively in the past and I like its effects. As mentioned below, I used it basically to add texture, but I have also used it to cover texture in a specific section in a painting that I didn’t like.

According to Golden Paints, molding paste can also be used to create foundations for painting either to create texture over a smoother surface, or to smooth out a textured surface. It dries to a hard, yet flexible, opaque film and blends with colors to tint and extend paint.

Chromatic Grays

Why do so many painters like to use chromatic grays?

It’s not just because they are esthetically reserved. There is a scientific and physiological reason. Chromatic grays are more comfortable to look at.

Bright, saturated colors that are not grayed at all can be almost jarring to see. They can be exciting for short periods of time, but their intensity is not for everyone. Our eyes and brains need to rest from them; to compensate for them by optically creating a less intense color.

One of the easy ways to achieve lovely gray mixtures is not to use blacks or premixed grays but, to mix color by using a small amount of a color’s complement.

A perhaps more interesting way to get less intense colors is to use color combinations, specifically the three primary colors on the color wheel of red, yellow and blue. For example, in this painting all of the colors are a combination of pyro red, cadmium yellow medium and ultramarine blue, plus white. The sky is a good example of what can be done with the three primary colors. The dark black lines are charcoal.

Ann Hart Marquis-Sandia Mountains-chromatic grays

Sandia Mountains, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 10 x 10 inches, 2015.

A favorite combination of some painters is ultramarine blue and yellow ochre and added permanent alizarin crimson to deepen and mute the color to the estimated color temperature and value needed. The result of this method can be a rich-bodied gray that seems to have more depth.

According to Daily Artist, “both Paul Cézanne and Giorgio Morandi used grays in an exquisite way by making wonderful transitions between the pure colors and the lights and darks.” I particularly like Morandi’s use of subtle of color.

Morandi Still Live, 1943

Morandi Still Life 1943, oil on canvas.

Do chromatic grays appeal to you?

Chromatic Black

If an artist does not want to use black in a painting, an interesting and easy way to substitute black paint is to create a color that is almost as dark as black. These colors are usually called chromatic black.  Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel) can be combined together like, violet and yellow, or red and green, or blue and orange. These are easy colors to mix, but they are not always the most interesting.

Almost any combination of two dark colors, one warm, the other cool, will produce a dark, usually attractive color. Ultramarine and burnt umber, Prussian blue and burnt sienna, or almost any dark blues with earth red-browns will give interesting results. You can get a blue-black by mixing thalo blue and cadmium red light. The kind of dark color you get depends on the ratio of each color paint that is mixed. Golden Paint provides an interesting way to experiment with colors electronically.

Mixing your own variations, creates a color that is dark, but still adds tone and mood and consistency to your painting. For this painting I wanted a rich strong “black”, so I mixed thalo green with alizarin crimson.

Ann Hart Marquis-Late Bloomers-Chromatic blackc

Late Bloomers, acrylic on paper, 11 x 11 x inches, 2015.

However, according to Gamblin Studio, the overuse of chromatic darks mixing can be a problem. Color mixtures can easily become “dirty” looking. This also points to a limitation of chromatic Black: while mixing colors together is an excellent way to create combinations for dark color, it is not as good as Ivory or Mars Black when a true black is needed in a painting.

Colors can also be grayed without being made to look “dirty.” When a chromatic black is added to white you can get some beautiful grays. If these grays are too blue, for example, simply add a little more of an earth color to the original mixture, which will make the grays look more gray.

I have even created my own “black” and feeling it was not dark enough, I added a touch of Mars Black. How about you? Do you have a preference for a particular dark color?