A lot of you have asked about my process for painting, and I love telling stories, so with this project I’m going to update the blog on Saturdays with bonuses. That way, I can tell more stories and include more details than I would in a normal post.

I won’t send these out as a newsletter, but you can find them here every Saturday.

I thought I’d start with an explanation of my plein air process and materials.

First the list.

I keep this card with my painting supplies. And I check it obsessively when I’m preparing to paint outside. There are few things more frustrating than schlepping all your supplies on the bus to the perfect location, finding the perfect angle with the perfect light and then discovering that you’ve left your brushes at home. (It’s happened. And I wept.)

So this list is divided in to necessary and convenient. Anything that is necessary has a red dot next to it. We’ll start there.

Paint. Obviously. I tend to bring my full palette, because I’m happier with the results when I have every option available, but I’ve limited myself to four colors and created marvelous paintings too.

Palette colors deserve a post all to themselves. Perhaps several posts, but for now these four colors mixed will give you almost any color you’d need for painting in the Northwest. Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow Light,  and White. Really. That’s all you need.

For example, this painting was one of the first I painted with only these 4 colors.

Panels. Working en plein air, you have a limited amount of time before the light changes, so I work small, to make sure I have time to finish a painting. I use masonite blocks, because they travel well and they’re durable. 8×10 or smaller. I generally buy several at once so I can sand and gesso them all in one afternoon. (Painting prep… that deserves a post of its own, too.)

Brushes. Since I’m working small, I really only need three brushes. A larger filbert, a smaller filbert, and a round brush with a good point for edges or details. Honestly, I’d probably add a bright, especially if I’m painting any kind of building, but really that’s it.

Mineral spirits + jar. I have to keep those brushes clean if I’ve only got four. So I must bring mineral spirits. For a long time, I used a baby food jar, but recently I got a fancy brush washer, and I love it. My brushes are cleaner and I don’t have to worry about leaks.

Baby Wipes.

It’s inevitable. I’m going to get paint on my hands, or face, or jeans, or behind my ear. I once walked around downtown Seattle for three hours with a large streak of Cadmium Red across my forehead. It’s paint. It travels. And it tends to travel most when I’m farthest from a sink and soap. Baby wipes are almost as important as brushes. Many oil paints are toxic, so this isn’t just vanity.

Next Saturday, we’ll talk about the other stuff on the list. The stuff that makes painting easier, or at least more comfortable. I need all the help I can get.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

You know I can’t just do one thing, right? I like to experiment and improvise. We here at Chez Guillebeau have eaten many a dinner that didn’t turn out so well, because of my tendency to experiment.

With 100 paintings in 100 days, I did a watercolor every Sunday, but this time I’m not painting on Sundays. So Friday is going to be the day for improvising. Some Fridays I may paint a watercolor, but today I thought I’d show you something new.

I’ve been playing with encaustic (the process of painting with hot wax) for a few months now, and I’ve finally created a painting that I really love. It’s fun to take the principles of painting with oil and apply them to a new medium. Landscapes work beautifully for this.

I worked this in several layers. First a layer of clear wax, then gradually building up to the lighter colors right on top, which is exactly what I do with oil.  I love it! The wax has a softer filtered quality that seems to add depth somehow.

And here’s a shot from the side, so you can get more of an idea of the process.

4×4 Oil on Birch Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $50.

Want it? Email me here.

Summer Sunshine: 4

June 10, 2010


I have a dilemma. It’s a difficult choice almost every time I fly.

Window or Aisle?

There are advantages and disadvantages.

Aisle: I have more space; I don’t have to worry about elbowing someone with my knitting; I can get up without disturbing two other people; I’m less likely to be trapped by a “talker” in the middle seat… it’s better all around.

Window: I can look at the sky.

It’s a tough choice. Jaded traveler that I am, I generally choose Aisle. It’s a safer bet, because I’m more comfortable and the odds are I can still see out the window occasionally.

But sometimes I look out at clouds like these, and wonder if I’ve been making the right choice.

What does your sky look like today?

5×7 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $65.

Want it? Email me here.

*A few weeks ago, I met another artist who was visiting from Alaska. We chatted while I was painting at Muse for Artist-A-Day in April. Since then, Suzie and I have emailed back and forth a bit, and we’ve decided to have a short conversation in paint. Today’s painting is the first in that conversation! And next Thursday, when Suzie replies, I’ve give you a link to her painting too.

Summer Sunshine: 3

June 9, 2010


One of the goals on my list for this summer is to capture a typical Portland scene in paint. Pale grey sky, muted colors, sunlight filtered through the layer of clouds.

But the problem with that scene is that there are no strong shadows. And strong shadows make the best paintings. That’s what this painting was about– the long shadow of the tree on the left.

By the way, this painting was painted from the same spot as Monday’s painting, just looking in the opposite direction.

6×6 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $75.

Email me here.

Summer Sunshine: 2

June 8, 2010

What if it rains?

I’ll paint anyway. Last week, as I worried about all the rain, there was a sudden break in the clouds. But, I had just put something in the oven, so I was hesitant to leave the house.

So I set up on my balcony. Because I’m determined like that.

I was nearly finished when the sky clouded back over and it began to drip. But oil paint isn’t affected by water, so I kept going.

Here’s the result.

This painting was about that little space of sky between those trees across the street. Once I finished, I realized how much it reminded me of this painting.

5×7 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $75.

Email me here.

Summer! Sunshine?

Of course, as soon as I commit to a summer filled with outdoor painting, it rains 19 days in a row. But I was not deterred. We’ve had a few hours of sunshine here and there, and each time, I’ve grabbed my easel and bolted outside as quickly as possible.

So I have paintings for you– don’t worry!

I’m going to spend the summer exploring my city and painting outside as much as possible. I’m planning to go back to the Rhododenron Gardens, and to the Waterfront, and maybe over to the coast, if I have a chance.

Here’s how this new series will work:

I paint 5 paintings each week. I send one to you in an email every weekday morning. As before, the first email reply in my inbox is the winner of the painting. And of course, there will be surprises and giveaways along the way– because it’s fun!

A note about pricing:
Last time, prices were pretty simple. Day 12= $12. Day 74=$74. But I can’t really afford to sell many paintings for less than $50. Most of my originals (regardless of size) are priced at $100 or more. Supplies generally cost around $30 for each painting, so I’m going to continue offering things here at a lower price point than I normally would. Because you’re awesome.

Now that we’ve taken care of those details, here’s today’s painting.

Since I knew it was just a matter of time before the next rain shower began, I had to act fast. Luckily, I live in a beautiful neighborhood and I’ve been wanting to paint these trees for awhile.

One of my teachers in Seattle used to say, “When painting outside, there’s so much happening, you must decide what’s most important. What is the painting about?” He calls it “Aboutness” and I always think about that when I’m painting en plein air.

The “Aboutness” of this painting started with the way the reds and greens bounced off one another, and moved to the way the light floated around the trees onto the sidewalk. It was windy and I was trying to figure out how to capture that, too. My neighbor walked by and she said, “It almost moves.” Which made me ridiculously happy, and I realized this painting was about motion.

6×6 Oil on Masonite Block. Ready to hang, no framing required! $85.

Day 101

May 26, 2010

Old Habits.

I’ve been writing these notes for 100 days, and I’m not quite ready to stop.

Even though I don’t have a painting for you today, I want to tell you what I’m planning next. I’m going to keep painting– it’s fun and so many of you have emailed to tell me how much you want to keep going.

But I’m going to switch things up to prevent boredom for both of us. Hence–

The Summer Sunshine Series.

Living in the Northwest, I’ve gotten used to the rain. Especially in the winter. I even like it, most of the time. But when summer comes– it’s glorious. And I’m going to celebrate this summer by painting outside as much as possible.

I’m going to slack off a bit with this project– I’m only going to paint 5 paintings a week for 10 weeks. So starting June 7, you’ll get a painting in your inbox every Monday-Friday. I’m going to take my easel and explore new places in Portland. Because you asked, I’ll explain bits of what I’m doing and how I paint, in addition to my usual stories. (There might even be a video or two.) At the end of the summer, I’ll have 50 paintings of my city, and a nice farmer’s tan.

As always, the first reply in my inbox is the winner of that day’s painting. And while I haven’t fully figured out the best way to price these, trust me that they’ll be options for everyone– because I’m happiest when my paintings live in other people’s homes.

Recap: 100 paintings in summary. (Click here to see the slideshow. WordPress won’t let me embed the slideshow here, so click this link to see paintings 1-100 in all their glory.)

Finally, let’s look back everything that’s happened since February 15.

(If you notice a little red dot in the left corner of the image, then that means the painting is still available. Remember, tomorrow all the paintings go to $100, so email today if you see one you love.)

And of course, prints of any of these images are available too. Just email me.

Day 100!!

May 25, 2010

Just the beginning.

We did it! 100 paintings in 100 days! Who knew?

I debated what to do with day 100. How could I end with a bang? What could I do to make the end of this project really special? But then, I realized– this isn’t the end.

This project has been incredible in so many ways. When I thought about doing this, I was in a bit of a rut, and had lost a little confidence in my work (and in myself). I wasn’t sure I could even come up with 100 ideas for paintings. Then I was worried that no one would buy them. Every day, I woke up wondering what would happen.

But gradually I got braver and bolder. I think I can actually call myself an artist now without hesitating over the word.  You know why? Because of you. Because you’re out there reading, and writing back, and telling me how much you’re enjoying this. You’re even sending me money so that I’ll send my paintings to you. (By the way, that still amazes me– thank you!)

And I can call myself an artist because I paint. Every single day. Because I don’t want to let you down. And you know what? I’ve discovered that I like painting every single day.

So this isn’t the end– not even close.

Which brings me to the painting for today.

8×10 Oil on Birch Panel. Ready to hang– no framing required! $100

Tomorrow: A slideshow recap of the whole project and details about what happens next. See you then!

Day 99

May 24, 2010

One more day.

Wow. Today’s day 99. I don’t really know what else to say.

There are so many more things to paint. I don’t even feel like I’ve gotten a good start!

I had other paintings planned, but I found this flower in the store yesterday, and it looked so fun. It seems very Dr. Seuss like, doesn’t it? So I had to paint it, and that means I’ll have to paint my other ideas sometime later– stay tuned.

6×8 Oil on Birch Panel. Ready to hang– no framing required! $99

Day 98

May 23, 2010

Sunday Series: Final

It’s the last Sunday. I’m a little sad about it. But, I have plans for what’s coming next, and I’m excited about those possibilities. So I’ve decided to focus on the future instead of the past.

Which is why I picked today’s poem.

(You might want to click through to see more detail.)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

–Emily Dickinson

4×6 Watercolor on Cotton Fiber Paper on bamboo board. $98

Special rules apply to today’s painting. Everyone wins! On Sundays only, instead of one buyer, I’ll paint a version of this for everyone that requests one, because I think if the quote speaks to you then you should have it.

Each painting will be an original and slightly different from the others I send out, but based on the painting you see above. The only rule is that in order to paint one just for you, I must receive your email by 8pm Pacific time today.

NEW!! Your painting will arrive ready to hang, because I’ll mount it on carbonized bamboo using archival adhesive. Here’s an example.

There will be a nice little keyhole like this, so all you have to do it find a nail and hang it right on your wall! No framing required! Yay!

Want it? Email me here.