Art Adventures

Posts from the ‘Materials & Reviews’ category

During our Paint Tuscany trip this May, we toured the beautiful hill town of Montepulciano. It was just as I had imagined it to be, but even more spectacular. A quaint little town of stone atop small hill with incredible views of the Tuscan valley below, Montepulciano also had unique stores, tucked along its streets, begging to be explored.

It was in Montepulciano where I found a hand-made book store, Legatoria Koine. Oh my. Such beautiful books! Such reasonable prices! I had to buy two. One for me (of course), and one as a gift (you know who you are!). Its heavy, torn-edged paper looks like old-time textured watercolor paper!

Hand bound Italian book. Leather outer, watercolor paper inside

Hand bound Italian book. Leather outer, watercolor paper inside

I can’t wait to fill it with artwork! It smells like leather, has rough edges, and came with a little note tucked inside. The woman who waited on us was a beautiful late-20’s Italian girl, who bound all the books (and painted oils on the side!). So cute.

Anyway, as we wound our way up through the town to take a look at the view as well as a garden near the top, I passed by a gorgeous alley, flooded in yellow Tuscan light, with views to the valley below. Breathtaking.

This is one of three Tuscan paintings I worked on this weekend.

Here is my reference photo:


Montepulciano alley, showing views of the valley below

Can you see why I was so inspired??!!  And, weirdly enough, it wasn’t a terribly sunny day, but warm sunlight burst through the haze and flooded a golden glow to the wall.

I painted this scene for several reasons. First, of course, to capture the gorgeous Tuscan light. But I also love the archway and the dark foreground drawing us in to a misty Tuscan landscape. A couple pause to contemplate the valley view, which adds a human element to the scene. I am also drawn to the lamp on the wall to the right. I decided accentuate a triangular composition highlighting the window box, lamp, and people.

With the composition focused on the 1/3 RH side of the canvas, here is my thumbnail sketch. Doing a small value sketch always help me decide on placement of shadows and forms within the painting.

Sketching the basic outline, values, and layout of the alley

Sketching the basic outline, values, and layout of the alley.

I gesso-coated rectangular paper cut out and collaged it onto my Plexiglas surface, haphazardly placing tiles of paper to resemble old brickwork. Netting further provided a gridded surface, suggesting rough stonework in the walls. As I painted, I sprayed and splattered water and paint on the surface, giving it an overall aged feel.

A dark entry of warm stonework draws our eyes into the painting. We then dance along the shapes of window shutters, glance off a warm yellow wall, and find the couple enjoying the valley scene below. We then might find the lamp and pop back to the red flowers of the window box before contemplating deeper into the scene.

Hard to see in this photo of the painting, but I added a white skirt on the woman and placed red shoes on her feet. 🙂

Montepulciano lowres copyright

Montepulciano Alley, 20×16, original watercolor and collage on Plexiglas

The resulting painting takes me back to my Tuscan experience and reminds me of our warm May day in Italy. I feel pulled in to the painting. I remember the cobblestone walls, stucco surface, rich smells, intimate windows, flowers, culture, and wonderful people. Imagine and allow it to draw you in to a beautiful moment in Montepulciano.

Find my work at Tumalo Art Company. In July, I will have my Tuscan work hung on their walls!

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Creating art can be a messy business. As an artist, I can personally vouch that we need a lot of stuff. We need stuff to paint on, stuff to paint with, objects to paint, scraping tools, masking stuff, taping supplies, drawing stuff, pencils, paper, glue, cutting tools, frames, wire, hanging supplies, books, magazines, cameras, and computers, just to name a few! Do we organize it? Rarely. Right, artists?

I went through my studio this summer, in preparation for upcoming classes and to make space for new work. I cannot tell you how much of my so-called “precious” art stuff was just trash. Okay, look. Do I REALLY need art supplies from Interior Design school circa 1988? Yellowed paper? Glue that had hardened in its container from ’05? Nope. But I had it. In spades. I pulled everything (almost…) off the shelves and out of drawers and proceeded to make an even larger mess on all available surfaces in the room. It takes making chaos to create organization, though, right? Ok, I just made that up. But I managed to fill several large bags for recycling and trash of miscellaneous items I no longer needed. My kitten, of course, was involved in all the decisions. This was her kind of day. She helped so much.;)

My cat, "helping" organize

In the drafting drawer, my cat, “helping” me organize. Hmmm…you should definitely keep this stuff…

Then I had the huge task of organizing what was left. I purchased a few plastic tubs and tried to fill them according to use or subject. Pretty difficult, given that I use many items for different end products. But organize I did, as best I could, and ended up with class tubs, greeting card supplies, and collage bins grouped and easily accessible. All my notebooks for contacts, galleries, licensing, and exhibitions line the top shelf for quick reference. Show supplies are on the bottom shelf.

Studio shelving organized. For now.

Studio shelving organized. For now. Not bad, huh?

At last, I got down to my day-to-day stuff; the supplies that I used every time I went into the studio to paint. That would be tubes of paint, paint brushes, and other supplies needed close at hand.

My boys had each taken a ceramics class in high school. I inherited their self-made vases. They make perfect holders for brushes, and remind me of their high school days. The little boots were given to me as a gift. Instead of holding flowers, I use them for brushes and pencils. The little nifty ceramic thing to the right is something my son made me to allow my brushes to dry on a slant. Pretty cool, huh? These items always sit on top of my drafting table.

Random ceramic containers for paint brushes and pencils

Random ceramic containers for paint brushes and pencils

I had been storing my tubes of paint in Safeway nut containers (handy little things) and old plastic tubs. This, I decided, just would not do. They were all different sizes and varieties. They didn’t stack, and, more importantly, didn’t look pretty. Right? Am I really that concerned with container beauty? In my studio? I guess so.

I ended up at a craft store nearby and came home with a prize for organizing my tubes of paint. It is a wooden box with four small drawers and a top lid. It feels old-fashioned, antique-like, and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am each time I reach for a tube of paint, to pull open a cute little drawer and select a tube of paint. It feels…I don’t know…somehow more rich and authentic!!

Organized paint tubes in a wooden drawer box!

Organized paint tubes in a wooden drawer box! Neat, huh?

After all this, I was curious. What did my artist friends use? Did they grab any container available? Or did they carefully select an “artsy” container that gave them joy to use? So I put out an email to them. What do you use to organize your paints?

Most of my friends were reluctant. They felt that the messiness of their studios were a stain on their beautiful paintings, I think. My friend, Janice, though, Druian Studios, was generous enough to send me a photo of her paints:

Janice's tubes of paint

Janice’s tubes of paint

Look at all those yummy tubes of paint. Just waiting for fabulous creations of landscapes by Janice! She complains that it’s messy. But it works! Here they are, in all their glory. Organized by color in plastic containers. I mean, in the throes of creativity, does it matter from which your paint tubes come? Here is her studio:

Janice's studio. Beautiful, isn't it!!

Janice’s studio. Beautiful, isn’t it!!

What a beautiful studio. Ah, Janice. Amazing.

Another artist friend, Susan Higdon, sent me this photo of her workspace:

Susan Higdon's work space

Susan Higdon’s work space

See? That’s what I’m talking about. We artists use anything and everything we can. We are usually big into recycling, and as you can see by Susie’s space, she has boxes, recycled food containers, and maybe just a couple of purchased items specific for organizing. She produces amazingly creative work in this delicious studio of art supplies. It begs to be used. There is no fear here. As are her paintings: Fearless and beautiful.

My friend Cindy Briggs,, an accomplished watercolor artist and instructor, has a special way of organizing her watercolor tubes. I first noticed it when we had a workshop together. The small mesh plastic bags provide an easy-to-see, organized method for traveling with your paints. Out of these plain, unpretentious and simple plastic bags of paint arise Cindy’s gorgeous watercolors.

Cindy Briggs organizes her paint tubes in plastic bags

Cindy Briggs organizes her paint tubes in plastic bags

Does it make a difference to have a beautiful organizer for tubes of paint? I can assure you that it does not, as far as painting creatively. Reaching for that tube and squeezing out the juicy color for a luscious application of pigment on a canvas is all that matters. But there is a little something that goes “ping!!” when I have depleted cobalt blue on my palette, reach for it, but instead, pull open a cute little drawer full of blues (hah…pun), and select my cobalt. It’s pleasure, people. Pleasure for beauty.

What do you use? Does it make a diffence how you store your tubes or other supplies? Have you recently changed or organized? Does it work? Do you hate it/love it? I’d love to hear about your system.

In the end, it seems I wore out my little cat. Next time, little one? My clothes closet, I promise.

Exhausted from all the organizing.

Exhausted from all the organizing.

Cheers, everyone! Keep creating to Feed the Beast! And thank you so much to the artists who sent me photos of their studio paints.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and deals! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that you see me at showings and receive notifications about SB Hansen Watercolor & Wine Painting Classes.



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Balance.  Something I strive to attain, yet hardly ever really achieve.  Someone asked me this week, “How do you do it all?  How do you take care of two teenagers, come to work every day, take care of your house and yard and still find time for your art?”  Simple answer:  I usually don’t.  I usually don’t have time for it all. Something typically gets dropped.  I prioritize and if it isn’t essential, I drop the ball.  So, for instance, the house, the yard, the laundry?  Those menial tasks get thrown to the curb and ignored.  But then every couple of weeks or so, it becomes imperative that I “do something” about the mess that has become my environment in which I live.  The balance might list too far to the side of uncleanliness.  So it was this week. The house-mess complained loudly.  I HAD to clean!  I MUST!  Argh.  The dust bunnies and their fellow friends were taking over.  And, I didn’t have my usual schedule, so was unable to prepare my thoughts, my canvas, my photos, and get on board for a great painting and great blog over the weekend. Sure, I squeezed out time to paint, but it wasn’t very satisfactory, as the menial house tasks were screaming at me.  Only two days to complete EVERYTHING.

Okay, so I’ve set you all up for the fact that my weekend painting was/is HORRIBLE this week.  I feel I dropped the ball.  Not only on my painting, but on everything.  Hence the title of this blog:  Balance.  We have to find balance in our lives when juggling so many things.  Like I said, I prioritize, but sometimes it’s not enough.  I strive for balance every day.

So my lilac painting will have to wait for another time.  I did work on it, but it needs so much more work that it is unfit to blog about.  😦

Instead, I’ll blog about my beast and its favorite colors.  Short and sweet and uncomplicated, this post.


Favorite colors: Clockwise from top right, Moonglow, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Cerulean, Cobalt Teal Blue, all by Daniel Smith

The above colors are always quick within reach on my palette.  They play well with others, lift easily, and have granular properties.  Above, you can see each color by itself, then worked into the blob in the middle. Super cool and makes me want to paint.  A good thing on a day like today when I’m feeling blue and uninspired.

Next, I added my favorite go-to brushes in the fray:


Favorite brushes added to the paints. At top, Daniel Smith 24-1 Mop brush, #5 Sable mix Daniel Smith round, Cat’s tongue series 50, #8 Daniel Smith round, and at bottom, American Painter 1/4″ bright

I use my mop brush initially to lay in large areas of color and value. The three brushes on the right are used for detail.  They are expensive sable mixes, but hold a ton of color and water. At bottom, a super cheap bright brush for removing paint and adding detail/edges to subjects. I scrub hard with this brush and don’t care if it gets messed up.

Wait, what?  How does this happen?  The blob became a beast!


Another version of my beast

After smooshing my favorite colors together, I saw my beast again!  Add an eye, mouth, nose, and detail and voila…beastie version 2 is born.

Thus, I found a smidgen of balance this weekend.  I did finish this blob…er…blog, mopped the floors and dusted, and even managed to go mushroom (morel) hunting with the boys and my hubby.  I should be satisfied.  I should be happy.  But that stupid Lilac painting is yelling at me…

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